Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kugel success!

Tonight I was able to make a kugel in my oven with no burnty bits. I turned on both top and bottom elements and kept the temperature to a low 275°.

Also made homemade chicken soup and 60 kreplach to go in it.

Tomorrow: roast vegetables, honey mustard chicken, honey cake and friends over for dinner.

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rye Bread Experiment

The vast majority of bread in Shenzhen is white, wimpy and overly sweet. More whole wheat products are making an appearance, but they are every bit as textureless as their lighter cousins. Having been raised on heavy Jewish breads like pumpernickel and rye, I was suffering. And so, I decided to make my own bread.

Here is the recipe I used:
http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/004274georges_light_rye_bread.php. The background story about George, the older gentleman who was a longtime baker, reminded me of Henry, the dashing 81-year-old retired baker in my favourite Sue Grafton mystery series.

I imported what I needed from City Super in Hong Kong. There is very little this international food store doesn't have, and I found rye bread, caraway seeds and yeast with ease.

And this morning I started my adventure. Everything mixed with ease. Kneading the dough, I seemed to get the correct texture according to the recipe. Let it rise, punched it down, kneaded again and set it aside to rise again.

I was definitely nervous about baking the loaves. Why? My Chinese-made "Tomato" brand oven has burnt almost everything I've put into it so far. I realized early on that it ran a lot hotter than its temperature dial reported. So for my rye bread, I set it to 300° instead of the 350° required by the recipe. I also put my baking pans on a second layer of metal sheet. Even at the minimum 40 minutes baking time, the bottoms burned. This is similar to what happened to my Spicy Scharffen Berger Brownies last week.

Minus the burnt portions, the bread was delicious. Fragrant of rye, molasses and caraway seeds. Soft and chewy. Awesome with dijon mustard. It's too bad I had to saw off the bottoms of the loaves. I'm thinking of investing in a bread maker.....

A favourite restaurant

For months now I've been meaning to write about my experiences in China, but after a full day of work I often feel like lazing around, not reporting. I've had to come up with something that gets me a liiiitle more excited than who tried to steal my taxi or stared at me like I have five heads or pushed in line at the grocery store. That would be .... food! Starting now, I'll try to report regularly on the great, interesting, not-so-good and just plain weird food I encounter in my daily life in China.

So, today's story is about "Northern Dumplings" ("ND"), one of my favourite neighbourhood restaurants. I've been going to ND for over a year. Its cuisine hails from the three northeastern provinces of China, and features a lot of yummy cold starters and Flintstones-like hunk-a-meat dishes. Since I'm not much of a meat-eater, I stick to the former. Oh yes, and as their name specifies, they do offer many kinds of dumplings.

My favourite dish at ND is a cold salad made from wide, stretchy see-though potato starch noodles, plus julienned carrots, cucumbers and radishes, all topped with a thick, spicy, sesame sauce and chopped coriander. The contrast between the slippy noodles and crunchy vegetables is just great. I like to spike the sauce with the dark vinegar that they keep on the tables.

Another tasty dish is the "Wosun with Preserved Meat". "Wosun" is a vegetable that looks and tastes just like a broccoli stalk (no florets). It's usually sliced on the bias into oblongs. The preserved meat is fatty smoked pork -- sort of a cross between ham and bacon -- and it adds a wonderful smoky taste to the dish. Usually whatever dining companion I'm with gobbles it up.

Other specialties are the sweet and sour purple shredded radish salad, shrimp with egg tofu slices, and the imposing mashed potato tower -- about eight inches tall and covered with a garlicky sauce.

Long live Northern Dumplings!