Sunday, February 26, 2012

New job

Last week I just had an opportunity land right in my lap. I have been asked to write a food column for the English section of the local newspaper called the Chengdu Weekly. I was over the moon to be asked to do this and even better is the way they want me to write the column. They will give me a main raw material and ask me to make something out of it.

I have been blessed to live in an amazing expat community who has always been more than willing to share knowledge. In the past our Chengdu International Women's Club had cooking demonstrations. I had the privilege of learning many dishes from many different countries.

My first week I will be writing about a French dish my friend Benedicte Bellier taught me to make called Gratin Dauphinois. I absolutely love this amazing potato dish made with cream and garlic! It goes perfect with the Carotte Boeuf she taught me to make. It has been a while since I dusted off these two dishes, so they will mostly go on the menu later this week!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Score! My Guo Kui Bing Man is Back!


I was pleasantly surprised when I drove down Yulin Xi Jie 玉林 西街 where the infamous Guo Kui Bing 锅魁饼man parks his little cart. I had been going down this street every week since Chinese New Year dreaming of eating his soft and slightly crisp pancakes. Yesterday I got the best Valentine's gift of all, he was back and ready to make me some fresh guo kui!

He is not a local Sichuan person. He actually comes from An Hui province in the Northeast of China. He just returned from a 20+ day stay over the Chinese New Year. I told him I have never had better guo kui in China and he told me it was because he uses special flour that he buys from An Hui. I wonder what makes there flour so special???


The beautiful cakes on the griddle, sizzling in hot oil. They consist of flour, egg, scallions, and I suspect some type of leavening agent.


He prepares several pieces of dough in baseball sized balls and rolls them out right before he throws them on the griddle.


After they are fried on both sides he gives you an option to have him put a shellacking of his homemade la jiao jiang 辣椒酱 or hot chili paste. It is a perfect to this beautiful snack!

For normal Sichuan street food his cart is immaculate! The oil was fresh and clean and his cooking surface and griddle were amazingly spotless. Next time I come by to have my pancake I am going to see if he can teach me how to make them along with his spicy chili paste. I can't imagine not being able to eat these when I move back to America.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Cookie Baking

We had another quiet week-end this past week-end. Friday night I made a Mexican food extravaganza and we had a few friends over to share the food. I always like making Mexican food for people who have never lived close to Mexico, they are always surprised by what great flavor it has and even though I am not proficient in this genre they always love my food.

Saturday Angus and Gemma had a birthday party in the morning and Jonny and I had a sleepover planned at the Sofitel. One of the benefits to living overseas is that we have help with the kids. Our ayi agreed to stay over night and watch the kids while we had a relaxing night, kid free. I promised the kids when we returned refreshed and recharged that we would make our Valentine's Day heart cut-out cookies that we try and make every year.


Angus rolling out the dough.


Hearts getting ready for the oven


Hearts getting ready to come out of the oven


Gemma mixing the frosting

We ended up with about 50 cookies and I sent them to school with the kids to share with their classmates. Our baking experience was a little stressful at first, but when we got to the frosting and decorating part it became much easier. I do have to say however, I think I am in desperate need to overhaul my sugar cookie recipe. The flavor of these cookies are getting a bit boring for me. I think I will have to scan the internet or better yet Pinterest to see what I come up with!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Shun Xing Teahouse 顺星茶楼


One of the things that I have wanted to do this year was to try and eat at as many new Sichuan restaurants I can before the inevitable happens and I land myself back stateside. Thanks to a little motivation by Fuchsia Dunlop's recent visit and article I had just the motivation that I needed to hit the food trail.

I was able to round up 8 of my most adventurous eating friends and hit our first restaurant. I chose Shun Xing Teahouse 顺星茶楼 as our first restaurant because I didn't want to scare anyone off on our first week. There als happened to be some extremely cold weather hitting Chengdu and wanted a place that we could all eat in comfort without worrying about freezing. I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived and a couple of the women said they had been to this restaurant before and it was extremely good.

Fuchsia had recommend the xiao chi 小吃 or snack menu, but I couldn't get buy in from everyone. We ended up ordering two of the snack set menus along with some cold and hot dishes. I took some photos of some of our dishes, but I was so excited to eat and didn't manage to write down the names of all the dishes! Oh well, next time...


Cucumbers with a soy-hoisin sauce


Tea smoked duck


This was my absolute favorite! It is this green, leafy vegetable Tong Hao Cai 桐耗菜 that looks similar to rocket/arugula. They served it in a lovely, sweet, vinegar dressing.



This was a beef cold dish with garlic shoots, cilantro and red chilies. It had a nice sweet dressing to cool it down.


A spinach dumpling from the snack menu

The restaurant was absolutely beautiful with a small photo museum in the back of the restaurant with old photos of Chengdu. In the evening they also have a Changing Mask performance, but reservations are a must as they are always fully booked. The other thing that I loved about the restaurant is they had men coming around to your table asking if they can clean your ear or give you a massage. I look forward to returning to Shun Xing Teahouse in the very near future with my family and visitor.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Happy Lantern Festival!


My veggies and tofu from my trip to Yulin wet market.

Today is the last day of the Lunar New Year, which is also known as Lantern Festival 元宵节. I was hoping to make tang yuan 汤圆 from scratch, but when I went to the market I decided to also make a Sichuan feast for dinner and completely forgot the ingredients for tang yuan! Actually it wasn't such a bad thing, I was able to focus completely on making my Sichuan food without worrying about making something too different than norman and without the assistance or instruction of my ayi.

I took my Sichuan Cookery book to the market with me and decided to make something heavy on the vegetables. I decided on our family favorites of fish fragrant eggplant 茄子 and dry fried green beans 干煸四季豆 and added a couple of new dishes to my Chuan cai 川菜 repertoire. I added flowering chives with smoky bacon 腊肉抄韭菜花 安定 and homestyle tofu 家常豆腐 as they were in season and we needed a little more protein in this meal.

I decided for once that it would good to do mise en place with my dishes. I learned this in culinary school, but for some reason I have always fought this procedure. This time I did a mise en place with every dish and it made things so much simpler, and looked beautiful. Who would have thought?


Homestyle bean curd mise en place


Fish fragrant eggplant mise en place


Flowering chives with smoky bacon mise en place


Dry fried green beans mise en place


The finished product!

I have to say that my dry fried green beans were the best of the four dishes and the best I have ever made. I used ground Sichuan pepper this time and it added so much to this dish. I wish more restaurants used it in their dry fried green beans. My personal favorite, fish fragrant eggplant was a little heavy on the black vinegar. Must work on this one! All and all I was really pleased with the meal and happy Jonny and the kids couldn't stop eating it.

Happy Year of the dragon!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Veggie Dinner Winner


Thanks to tip from my dear friend Reed I found this recipe on Fat Free Vegan. Now I am not a vegan nor do I believe in fat free, but we are striving to eat less and less meat and this website is very helpful. It has been a bit of a challenge to find recipes that I find satisfying, but I am starting to find more and more that go over well in our house. The only thing I changed about the recipe was that I used homemade, full fat yogurt instead of soy yogurt. I served it up with sweet potato fries with rosemary! A perfect pairing and absolutely delicious!