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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pin Chuan (Spicy Sichuan) in Shanghai, China

Last night Bob and I were actually going to go to Haiku, a sushi restaurant, but apparently you need to make reservations for the place on a Friday night. We'll know better next time. With out any idea of where we should go, we wandered down the street and ended up at Pin Chuan, whose tagline is "Simply Spicy Sichuan," and we were quite pleased with the meal. To be honest, we didn't know the restaurant was a sichuan place until we sat down and saw the menu, everything outside the restaurant was in Chinese, so we took a chance. I'm glad we did.

We ordered 4 dishes and shared a dessert. We had pan fried green beans with bacon. The dish wasn't spicy, but it was very good. The green beans were so fresh and were only cooked a little bit, so they had a nice bite. They were a little oily, and we could have done with out that, but they were still very very good and I would recommend the dish to anyone. The bacon was pretty salty, but a nice pairing with the green beans.

We also ordered a spicy chicken cashew dish that I thought was awesome! It was a spicy/sweet dish and we hadn't expected the sweet part, so Bob was a little disappointed, but I thought it was wonderful. The chicken had been cooked in some kind of spicy vinegar and it was melt in your mouth tender. Plus, I'm a sucker for any kind of dish with cashews in it.

We ordered a spicy beef and prawns dish that was the perfect spiciness. As Bob pointed out to me, we need to be careful when ordering spicy dishes, mostly because if the meat hasn't been specifically mentioned as a part of an animal you usually eat, it's possible that you're eating stomach, which is no bueno. The spice acts as an anti-microbial on dishes like intestine and stomach. Lucky for us, the beef was great and the prawns were even better. I have noticed that the spice they use here leaves a metallic after taste in my mouth. I asked Bob about it but he hasn't noticed any such thing, so it must just be me.

We had shrimp dumplings in a spicy chili sauce, but they were only "eh." They didn't really have a lot of flavor and were pretty greasy. I wouldn't order them again, they didn't bring anything special to the meal.

Lastly we ordered sesame balls in egg/vinegar/sugar sauce/soup thing, called glutinous rice dumplings. The sesame balls were great! That's definitely something I'll miss when we eventually leave China, sesame is soooo good. Bob just told me the sesame balls are made with sesame paste, sugar and lard. No wonder they're so good.

I would definitely recommend Pin Chuan, it was great and the price was great. We enjoyed our dinner with the local beer and Chrysanthemum tea. They actually crush up the flowers and throw it in the tea pot, it's kind of perfumy but it was a really good compliment to the food.We had all that food plus Chrysanthemum Tea and three beers for about $55USD. I think we'll probably take our friend Richard there while he's staying with us.

After we finished dinner we walked around the French Concession and stopped at a bar with an outside patio. We enjoyed a beer there and then walked on to find another place. We ended up at a bar called the Bulldog Pub. It was 4 stories tall! They had a pool, boardgames and drink specials, so we hung out there for the rest of the even. We'll likely go back to check out their 2 for 1 burger deal that they have on Friday nights. :)M

Friday, August 27, 2010

Snacks - They're awesome! (In Shanghai)

"NomNomNomNomNom" (That's the noise I make sitting at my desk all day.)

I'm a big snacker, and it's been a little difficult trying to figure out snacks while in China. Mostly difficult because I don't always want a sweet snack covered in some kind of pork product, which seems to be fairly common. I have found a few things I really enjoy though, and of course they're sweet and I don't need to eat them, but I still do.


1- Pejoy - I love Pejoy, it's like Pocky but instead of a long stick pretzel covered in chocolate or whatever you like, it's a hollow pretzel/waffer thing filled with different kinds of wonderful creamy insides. I've managed to find: matcha (green tea), chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cheesecake, tiramisu, chocolate/vanilla combo and a wine flavored one which I haven't tried just because it looks gross. The Tiramisu one is by far the best because it's like a really sweet coffee. Mmmmmm. Each box of Pejoy comes with two little packets of about 8 sticks. They're delicious and I can't help but eat a whole box by myself sometimes.

2- Pillow - OMG! I don't even really know what these things are, but I love them. They come in three flavors (that I've found so far, there could be more) Taro, Red Bean and Chocolate. Taro and Chocolate are my favorite, the Red Bean is okay, but not as addictive. They're about the size as mini-wheats cereal and they have a Captin' Crunch consistency, and are filled with one of the three flavors. The Taro Pillows actually taste like Captin' Crunch on the outside and then have the yumm
y Taro flavor on the inside. The Chocolate ones are like Coco Puffs on the outside with a Chocolate center. The Red Bean Pillows are less flavorful and kinda wheaty on the outside, red bean "eh" okay on the inside. Bob and I particularly enjoy the Pillows on top of ice cream, it's amazing.

3- Milk Tea -This is not my first experience with Milk Tea, I've been enjoying it since about Spring Break of 2003 when I road tripped to the OC with my friend Kelsea. She introduced me to the drink as (phonetically) "Bow-ba." It's a drink/slushee/icee/ usually with tapioca balls the size of your thumb in it. You drink it through a large straw to suck up the balls of tapioca. At first it's a little weird to be chewing your drink, but I've come to love it soooo much. Anyway, here it's a milk tea, mostly because if you order a regular milk tea, it's a milky consistency and it's got kind of a soy milk sweet taste with the tapioca balls. You can also get (again, phonetically) "say-go" which is a smaller version of tapioca balls. There are also different kinds of flavors you can get. It seems like there are typically 4 different kinds of the "Bubble Tea" (another name for them, because of the Pearls, aka tapioca balls), juicy, dessert, coffee, and strangely enough salty. The regular milk tea falls into the coffee category. I usually get a coffee based milk tea or a dessert milk tea. Back in the US though I'm a fan of the Avacado Slurpee-esque Bubble Tea from a place called "Quickly." Yum! Here my favorite is a chain called "Happy Lemon." I usually pick up a milk tea whenever I'm at the mall, it's a ritual.

4- Flavor Rolls - Sorta in the same line of thinking as Pejoy, these are about the size of your thumb, waffers filled with different kinds of cream. I picked up a bunch just the other day at a grocery store. I bought 16 for less than $1USD. So far I've only tried butter(vanilla) and chocolate but I must say they're pretty decent and it's nice that they're individually wrapped. I also picked up: strawberry, pineapple, mango and apple, so we'll have to see if I like those as well. I would say they're like those little waffers you can buy in the states with the cream in them. I can never remember what they're called but I promise, these taste about the same, just with more variety.

5- Tea - What kind of person would I be if I were living in China and not drinking mass quantities of hot tea? A bad person, that's right. Right now we have three different kinds of teas in our house and every morning I wake up, I wash out my mug and throw in a new bag of tea and I just re-fill my cup all day long. Yes, the tea bag lasts that long, it's truly amazing. We currently have your basic Green Tea, Oolong Tea and another kind that I cannot remember the name of for the life of me. Our friend Eric picked it up for me because I told him how much I love the tea we get whenever we go out to restaurants. So I guess it's just basic Dinner Tea. Bob and I bought special mugs that are like mason jars with handles. This way he can take his tea with him in the morning to work. The mugs also came with a little siv thing for loose leaf tea, which is pretty nice.

I'll continue to check out snacks and report back. In the time I wrote this I ate an entire bag of Taro Pillows. They were delicious. :)M

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hot Pot Lunch

For those of you who've never had hot pot, it's kind of like going to a fondue place. You cook your own food in a giant pot of boiling broth of your choosing. I find it to be rather messy, but delicious usually. I went to one hot top place that provided aprons to the patrons of the restaurant, which I loved because too many of my nice shirts have been destroyed by hot pot grease. (Take a moment to say ew, it's okay.)

Anyway, when you go for hot pot, there's a burner in the middle of the table that they place the giant pot on. Bob and I chose the spicy broth today, and let me tell you, we can handle spicy but this was burn your lips off spicy. We've decided that from now on we're going to order less spicy and then adjust the spicy-ness using the spice and fixin's bar. Speaking of the fixin's bar, you'll love it, I know I do. It's just a counter usually with all the different kind of spices you can use to adjust your hot pot's flavor and yumminess level. We went with garlic, chives, onions and chili flakes today, although the chili flakes were entirely unnecessary.

I'd like to tell you the name of the place we went for hot pot today, but I truly have no idea. All I can say is that it's 4 blocks away from our apartment on Haifang Lu. Yeh, I know, that's not very helpful. The name was only in Chinese and of course I forgot to take a picture. But don't worry, I plan on going back, so I'll get a picture of the name of the restaurant next time.

We ordered lotus, mushrooms, tofu, pork slices and beef slices for our hot pot. I LOVE lotus, if you've never had it, it's reminiscent of okra but even better! It's kinda sweet and savory at the same time, go out and find some to try now. The pork was kinda blah, it didn't even really pick up anything from the spices in the hot pot. The beef slices were good, and cooked up very nicely. The mushrooms were okay, I'm still not use to my mushrooms being chewy. The tofu was great, it worked wonderfully like a little sponge and soaked up all the great flavors of the pot.

We threw all the lotus, tofu and mushrooms in right at the beginning so they could cook up and get tender, then we cooked the meat slice by slice as we ate it. Some places will provide you with a little fork thing to throw the meat in the hot pot, but this place didn't. I like the fork thing because then I'm not picking up my uncooked meat with my chopsticks. To make me feel better I'd always stir my chopsticks around in the broth while it's boiling before eating off the chopsticks again.

We had an interesting experience with the way the broth was prepared, that we'd never seen before. It was like a big chunk of spices and flavors had been frozen and then thrown in the hot water, so originally before everything began to boil there was a big chunk of flavor floating in the water. Our tofu, lotus and meat was also frozen to begin with, which made putting the tofu in the pot a little difficult. We ended up picking up the tofu with our fingers and delicately dropping it in the boiling pot.

Overall I liked the place. I don't think it's the best hot pot I've had but the staff was really nice and the place was big, open and airy. The spice/fixin's bar was well stocked and had lots of choices. And I feel like the price was pretty reasonable. (Reasonable being about $26 for both of us to eat, including my coke, and watermelon for dessert.) I would say it's too much for lunch, the quantity, not the price. The only really down side for me, although it's not that big of a deal, is that there isn't an english menu. We did all our ordering by looking at pictures, and there aren't pictures of everything. I guess it's just a sign that I need to be working on my Mandarin.

We're going to go back and try a different broth, so that we'll have more control over the flavors and spice factor. It seems like if you order spicy here, you lose some of the flavor and it's all spice, but we'll see.

I think tonight is Sushi night, stay posted. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Juicy Lucy

Josie and I watched this one episode of Man vs. Food via Netflix streaming and were bombarded with images of hamburgers that didn't have cheese on them, but cheese in them. We decided that this would be a simple recipe to try and complete. I decided to use my standard hamburger mixture for this little experiment.

- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 pound grass fed beef
- 1 slice of 4-year old aged cheddar from Seattle
- 1 slick of pepper jack
- A tomato
- Romaine lettuce
- Salt and pepper to taste

Putting It All Together
0. Prepare the hamburger by adding the egg, bread crumbs and mixing it all around until your hands are cold. Add salt and pepper to taste... but don't taste it with your finger. That's e. coli country. Just use your best judgment.

1. Split the pound of beef into four equal sized patties. This makes four quarter pounder patties.

2. Split each quarter pounder in half (making eight 1/8 pounders).

3. Flatten each of these halves into patty shapes. The thinner the better as thick burgers, as we found out, have a hard time cooking all the way through evenly.

4. Break one of the cheese into small pieces so it fits in the center of one of the small 1/8 pound patties.

5. Take another of the 1/8 pound patties and put it on top. It should look like you're hiding a tiny mound of cheese under a hamburger patty.

6. Pinch the sides of this new quarter pounder with cheese ON THE INSIDE.

7. Do the same for the three (3) remaining quarter pounders.

8. Grease up a pan and start frying up the burgers. This should work just as well on a grill.

9. While the burgers are cooking, cut the tomatoes into slices of your liking as well as the romaine lettuce.

10. After the burgers are cooked all the way through (check by cutting closer to the outside so cheese doesn't spill out yet), remove them and place them on a plate.

11. Place vegetables as needed. Add salt and pepper on top of tomatoes for a nice kick in your face.

12. Eat heartily and don't forget to turn off the stove.

Man! Look at that cheese! Using toasted buns is also an option, but we found ourselves completely full without. In hindsight, there's not really too much different between this and a standard cheeseburger... except that the beef juices cook into that delicious cheese and all over your stomach. I mean mouth.

More Stir-Fry from my Kitchen (Apple Pork Potato)

So, again I speak of my love of stir-fry. I couldn't help myself, I blame the blog post I wrote about the last stir-fry. Last night I created a sweet and citrusy concoction that truly was one wok stir-fry awesomeness. And I'm going to tell you how to do it. I shall hence forth refer to it as "Apple Pork Potato Stir-fry," you of course can call it whatever you like when you make it.

This dish is not spicy at all, it's more sweet and tangy/citrusy. Here's what you'll need (and no, I didn't provide quantities because I didn't measure anything, I just threw it in.)


- pork (cut up in small chunks)
- green beans (although you could probably use broccoli or asparagus)
- potato(es) sliced in very thin slices so they cook easily (I cut my potatoes in half and then slice thin half medallions
- onion (chopped up however you want)
- garlic (coarsely chopped, at least I like it that way)
- apple cut into small cubed pieces
- orange, I pulled it apart and kinda mushed it around in a container
- honey
- soy sauce
- brown sugar
- lemon juice
- butter
- rice (or whatever you want to serve it with, I bet noodles would be good too)

Cooking Implements:

1 wok/or flat frying pan
1 rice cooker/or pot for cooking rice or noodles

Okay, let's begin:

Step 1: As mentioned previously, I like to take care of step 1 around lunch time when I'm in the kitchen anyway.

- Put pork, onion in a zip lock bag. Toss in some brown sugar and then pour in some soy sauce. You don't need a lot of soy sauce, just put in enough soy sauce to mush everything around and get it all covered. Okay, put it in the fridge.

- Cut up your greens and garlic and put them in a container in the fridge.

- Cut up the potato, you could probably also cut the potato into cubes, but I think the slices look nicer and cook more easily. Put the cut up potato in a container and put it in the fridge.

- Cut up your apple and put it in a container. Now, as we all know, after you cut open an apple it starts to get brown and dry out, so to prevent that from happening and to mix some flavor peel your orange and mush up the inside and throw it in the same container as the apple cubes. Now put it in the fridge for later.
Step 2: (1 hour before you eat, for rice prep and other fun.)

- As taken directly from my last post "Start the rice. I love my rice cooker, if you have one I suggest you use it. If you don't then the easiest thing to do is what my mom taught me. Measure your rice and throw it in a pot with out water in it. Okay now stick your finger in there and note where the rice comes up to on your finger. Okay, now put in enough water that when you put your finger on top of the rice the water goes up to that same mark. (It's roughly twice the amount of water to rice.) Now put a lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil, after it's boiling turn the burner down to just barely on (or a simmer if you will) and put the lid back on and let it sit and cook slowly for 45 to 50 minutes."

- If you're not having rice, I suggest you wait until about 20 minutes before you're ready to eat to start the noodles.

- Set the table. I'm a big believer in eating at the table. Don't get me wrong, I will also eat in front of the tv, but I think eating at table is much nicer.

Step 3: Half an hour before dinner.

- Pour some lemon juice in your wok, and throw in about a 1/8th a stick of butter. Throw in your green beans and garlic. Stir them around for a few minutes with the heat way up. (Put the container in the sink.)

- About 5 minutes later put in the potatoes and drizzle some honey over everything and stir it around. (Put that container in the sink.) Turn down the heat and stir everything around for about 10 minutes. You don't have to constantly stir, but you don't want things to burn either.

- Now add your apples and mushed up orange and stir it in real good. (Put the container in the sink.) After you've stirred everything around you can let it sit for a little bit with the burner turned down low. And while it's sitting you can clean up your mess in the sink. Do it.

- Okay, now add all the yumminess from the ziplock bag to the wok and stir it in really well, and turn the heat up to about medium. Stir everything around until the pork is cooked all the way and you're done!

As you can see in the picture above, I enjoyed my stir-fry with a nice glass of coconut milk. Mmmmm, delish.

I think when I make this recipe again I'll add peanuts to it, and maybe try using sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. That's the beauty of stir-fry, you can make anything you want.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh yeah, Homemade Stir-Fry!

So I was very domestic last night and I cooked dinner for Bob and our friend Eric. I'm a huge fan of stir-fry because you can really make anything stir-fry style. My friend Rachel and I use to make Mexican Stir-Fry, and I've dabbled with Moroccan Stir-fry and Italian Stir-fry. I guess I should define what I consider stir-fry....

Stir-fry: anything that you could make in a single wok. (Obviously not including rice or noodles.)

Anyway, last night was had good ole regular stir-fry in the rice sense of the word. And you know what, it was delicious! Spicy and delicious.

So I went to the market/grocery whatever you want to call it, or wherever you'd like to go. I bought:

- 1.5 pounds of chunks of pre-cut beef
- 1 small container of mushrooms
- 1 small container of spicy red peppers (the little tiny ones)
- 1 small onion
- 2 carrots
- garlic
- a large container of what I thought was bok choy (the greens), but wasn't, I'm still not sure what it was, but for a US version you could use broccoli or spinach
- 1 lemon
- soy sauce
- schezuan pepper salt (I think this could be replicated using black pepper, chili pepper and cayenne pepper)
- soy sauce
- rice
- butter (half a stick)


-rice cooker/or pot to cook rice in with a lid
-steamer/or pot with a steamer basket and a lid
-wok/or flat large pan

Okay, so now you know what you need. Now you need to prep your dinner. There are three steps to this now, I say three because there are three time frames for getting everything ready. I like to cut up all my veggies and everything earlier in the day so that clean up is easier later in the evening. So...

Step 1: (Earlier in the afternoon, I like to do it around lunch time because I'm already in the kitchen making my lunch anyway.)

-Cut up the mushrooms, onion, red peppers, 1 finely chopped garlic clove (or more or less depending on how much you like garlic) and throw everything in a plastic zip log bag with the meat chunks. Throw some black pepper, chili pepper/powder and cayenne pepper in the bag and then seal it. Mush it around in your hands a little to get everything coated nicely. Okay, now put it in the fridge.

-Cut up the carrots, another clove of garlic (big chunks this time), prep your greens (rinse them or whatever you need to do). Put the carrots and garlic in a container and the greens in another container. Okay, put it in the fridge.

Step 2: One hour before you want to eat.

- Start the rice. I love my rice cooker, if you have one I suggest you use it. If you don't then the easiest thing to do is what my mom taught me. Measure your rice and throw it in a pot with out water in it. Okay now stick your finger in there and note where the rice comes up to on your finger. Okay, now put in enough water that when you put your finger on top of the rice the water goes up to that same mark. (It's roughly twice the amount of water to rice.) Now put a lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil, after it's boiling turn the burner down to just barely on (or a simmer if you will) and put the lid back on and let it sit and cook slowly for 45 to 50 minutes.

- Set the table. Don't laugh at me. I like to set the table, it makes things nice.

Step 3: Okay, now it should be about half an hour before dinner.

- Throw the carrots and garlic in a steamer on the stove. (If you're using broccoli, I suggest putting it in now too, if not using broccoli wait until I say.) While the steamer is going cut up your lemon into slices, like you would put in iced tea. Clean up your mess (do it).

- (15 minutes before dinner) Get out your bag of mixed meat, veggies and spices. Prep the wok by pouring about three table spoons of soy sauce on it. And put 1/4 of a stick of butter in there, and add your bag of yumminess. (Turn the heat on low/medium)

- Add your greens to the steamer pot and place the lemon slices on top. Also throw in the rest of your butter. Cover and let steam.

-Stir your meats and veggies and when everything is cooked the way you like it....EAT!

I like to serve my stir-fry in bowls, but you could serve it in anything you like.

If you want you can also make wontons like I did, but they're not necessary, I was just really hungry.

And now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go enjoy last night's leftovers for lunch. YUM!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Love Bread Stuffed with Yumminess

Dumplings, Wantons, XLB (xiaolongbao) and sticky-buns.....mmmmm. I've decided I could eat bread stuffed with yumminess all day every day. I've been on a dumpling kick recently, and when I say dumpling I really just mean anything that's kind of bread-like stuffed with meat, vegetables or some kind of delicious dessert. I've even discovered an awesome brand of frozen wantons and bbq pork buns that are AMAZING. I know because we had them a couple of nights ago for dinner. (That's a picture of what they looked like when I took them out of their wrapping, I just popped them out and tossed them in boiling water for 5 minutes and they were great.)

The frozen wantons we sampled were pork and cabbage wantons and they were pretty good. I like them more than Bob, but he's kind of a snob when it comes to food. I thought they were surprisingly good considering they'd been frozen. They had a really good consistency and were very flavorful. I bought some dark soy sauce to on them, which made them even better. (I have a sneaking suspicion that "dark" just means thick, because this was not your regular soy sauce that pours out of the bottle like water, it oozed out slowly, like pudding.)

Sadly, I don't have any pictures of them, because we ate them immediately but we had....bbq pork buns! And those were GREAT! (Also frozen.) I cooked them in my awesomely new steamer that you can buy multiple levels for so you can steam lots and lots of dumplings and buns at once. You can't really tell in the picture, but there's another layer that sits on top to steam.

For dessert I even got us small sticky rice balls filled with sesame paste. If you've never had a sesame bun before you are seriously missing out, they are so sweet and delicious.

Okay on to other exciting things for instance, today for lunch I had Yang's Fried Dumplings. Oh man are they delicious. They're soup dumplings that are steamed and then fried! Sooooooo delicious and they practically melt in your mouth. I'm not actually sure if you can order different kinds, I just know the ones I always end up with are filled with pork and soup. Yummy!!!! I can get 4 dumplings (and they're pretty big) for 4.5 RMB which is like $0.65 in USD. That's right, for 65 cents I had lunch today and it was great. And you can watch them make the dumplings right before your very eyes, it's pretty impressive. I can't imagine how many they make every day, but I plan on being there on a regular basis to slurp up some fried dumplings of yumminess.

And now, if you will, a side topic: How To Eat A Soup Dumpling
(They're usually super hot, so you don't want to just bite into one, that would hurt, ouch!)

1- Wait a couple of minutes after you've received your dumplings to actually eat them. I know you'll be tempted to bite right in, but remember, they're HOT.

2- Okay, now you've waited for them to get a little cooler. I like to bite a little hole in a corner, or stab it with my chopstick and then suck all the juice out. Mmmm, obviously you still have the chance of soup getting on you, so use one of the nifty spoons usually provided.

3- Dip the yummy dumpling in the vinegar or soy sauce provided on the table to add an extra kick. Today they had some chili pepper sauce which was pretty good.

Half of my yummy lunch dumplings.
(I ate the other two before I remembered to take a picture.)

But wait! I'm not done! There's more....

We had dinner at a Xiaolongbao place the other night called "Simon's Test Kitchen." Not very Chinese sounding but you can build your own xlb. You don't actually build it, but you pick the choices. Rather than just having the regular outer shell you could pick shells with spinach, beet, mushroom and regular as choices. And then you can pick what's on the inside, veggies, pork, mushrooms, etc. I had spinach wraps with pork and veggies on the inside, they were pretty yummy but kinda small. I was hoping for something a little more substantial.

I would go back and try more xlb at Simon's but I'd order a whole lot more food! I got the five dumplings shown above and they were about the size of a tootsie pop. (You know, the how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop.) And I'd try all the combos of fillings and wraps. On a side note, Bob tried the fresh veggie juice there and it wasn't very good, it was bland and gooey.

And finally, while I don't have any pictures to show off my favorite dessert, there are plenty you can look up online. I absolutely love taro filled sticky buns. They're soooooo good. It's sweet but not too sweet and usually about the size of my fist, and I love them. I actually had Bob run down to the corner store last night to get one because I NEEDED one. He was really nice and did it for me. :)M

I'd like to apologize for all my pictures being weirdly formatted, again, being in China with the great firewall has caused problems uploading things properly.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Way Down South – Food on My Trip Home AKA My Journey to Adult Onset Diabetes

I’ve been absent for a while and Margaret has been beating me with the posts, but I really don’t think I can write more than a few words about Morningstar Grillers Chik-n on a bagel thin, and since that’s constituted many of my recent meals, I was short on content. But don’t worry, I took a trip to the South last weekend and there was no shortage of yummy bites to recount.

When I go home, there is one place I always have to go: McAllister’s Deli. It’s a chain located only in the Southeast. Back in college, it was the go-to place for a “nicer” meal than fast food and it was local so everyone loved it. McAllister’s has changed their menu in recent years to sort of upgrade their offerings. I don’t necessarily think this was a good thing, since their menu was pretty stellar before. I mean, they offer a sandwich called “The Big Nasty.” The BN is an open-faced sandwich covered in roast beef, cheese, gravy, and of course, to make sure you eat your veggies, green onions. Doesn’t that turn you on? The other thing they are known for is their sweet tea. People buy gallons of the stuff for tailgating. You can’t beat it. So what did I eat? Well, I wasn’t feeling woman enough to mount a Big Nasty, so I went to my standard French Dip. Mmmm, it never lets me down. Hoagie roll slightly toasted, piles of roast beef, a little bit of cheese, and a big steaming bowl of au jus. Gah, I’m salivating just now. Why won’t they move up north?? They usually serve the sandwiches with the best Kosher dill pickle you’ll find and your choice of side. I go with the plain potato chips. Now, I give you the McAllister’s French Dip with a sweet tea on the side…..

Can you see that monstrosity in the back? Let me show you what my sister ate. McAllister’s serves sandwiches, salads, wraps, and several variations on the baked potato. My sister ordered the pot roast potato. Follow me here, giant baked potato, pot roast with carrots and MORE potatoes and a god-awful amount of gravy. And what do they serve on the side, just in case you need a little more flavor??? BUTTER!! I mean, where are you going to put the butter? On the gravy? Well, being the South, you’ll probably just eat it on its own as a side dish. Peep a look at this.

Not very appetizing, huh? Well, despite its ugly duck appearance, it’s damn tasty.

For my next meal, my dad cooked a typical downhome meal. Simple, fresh ingredients. We had smoked pork loin and fresh vegetable. There was corn, freshly picked from our family’s garden and creamed by hand. Zipper peas, which are my absolute favorite, but I only get them at home. Zippers are a variety of cream crowders. Don’t know what they are? Go South and discover! And, of course, the always-present white butterbeans. We also enjoyed freshly sliced tomatoes from my dad’s garden. The smokiness of the pork was perfectly matched with the sweetness of the corn. The peas and beans were slightly sweet as well, but went great with the acid of the tomatoes.

Not so bad, huh? We can eat healthy food in the south. I'm not going to tell you that the butterbeans and peas were cooked with bacon or that the creamed corn had a small amount of butter. No, I'm not going to tell you that...

And from slightly healthy to the most horrible-you’re-going-to-judge-me thing I could ever eat. Are you ready for it? Heard of Hardee’s? No? You might have heard of Carl’s Jr. Hardee’s is the southern branch of the chain. I had to go shopping for my mom before our family shrimp boil and it provided me with the perfect opportunity to swing through the drive thru for breakfast. When going to Hardee’s for breakfast, there is only one thing I order---the chicken biscuit. Good lord, it’s great. Granted, they’ve changed the recipe a few times since I was a kid, but it’s still basically the same. Homemade buttermilk biscuit gently cradling a giant boneless chicken breast. This thing is all that’s right about America…and maybe a bit of what’s wrong. It’s obesity on a biscuit. It’s glorious and you will not make me feel guilty about my choices. And look, you can eat it while driving!

Now, after all that, I’m going to eat some celery.

Monday, August 9, 2010

So you want to make watermelon juice...

I've discovered while living in Shanghai, that one of my favorite things is watermelon juice. Who knew?! I knew I loved eating watermelon pieces at family BBQs in the summer, but this takes it to the next level. So after enjoying the watermelon juice at various restaurants I decided to buy a juicer thing and try my luck at making my own juice.

Lucky for me there's a little stand less than 15 feet away from my front door that sells only watermelons, so I didn't have to go far. In my limited Chinese I told the nice girl there that I wanted one large watermelon. I did this by saying (phonetically) "eee-ga" and then pointing at the watermelons and gesturing widely with my arms that is should be large. (Eee-ga means = one of. Ga is a counting term, just as a side note.) So the girl climbed around all the watermelons tapping them and finding me a nice big one that was ready to go. It was a little larger than a basketball.

I hauled the watermelon home, rinsed it off in the sink and got ready to begin cutting it up into chunks for the juicer. I meant to take a picture before I cut open the watermelon but forgot, so here is what the watermelon looked like after I sliced it open with a cleaver.

I didn't want to make a huge mess so I cut sections out of the watermelon as I went. Bob told me later I was silly, but really this made very little mess. I used a spoon to help get all the good stuff out.

I put half the chunks in the freezer and the other half in the refrigerator. I put some in the freezer because bob and I thought that rather than using ice to make it super cold, we could just make the watermelon itself the ice. We felt pretty brilliant. Anyway, about four hours later (because i was cleaning) I decided it was time to use the juicer and make some fresh watermelon juice.

So our juicer is a quazi blender/juicer/food processor thing, and of course all the instructions came in Chinese. So I thought, "hmm, I can probably just use the blender for this." That was not the case. So i reassembled the food processor and made the biggest mess of my kitchen because I hadn't put everything together properly. But after reviewing the placement of the pieces on the food processor I was able to get everything worked out, and I made a giant pitcher or watermelon juice, and it was delish!

I've been trying to upload more pictures of my journey to make watermelon juice but my connection in Shanghai hates me. I'll likely add them to flickr later.

Now go forth and make watermelon juice, you'll love it!