Kitchen God for the Year of the Horse
As the year of the snake comes to a close, and preparations for the new year are in full swing, it is time to pay special attention to a very important member of the Chinese home, the Kitchen God.
The Kitchen God lives close to the stove or hearth in each home. Usually in the form of red and gold sign of his name or in a photo, his purpose is to observe the health of the family throughout the year and return to the Jade Emperor to report what has been said and done in the household over the past year. He is one of the most worshiped and respected of all gods that protect the home and family. Additionally, he can inspire the cook to make healthy and flavorful food for the family throughout the year.
Before the Kitchen God returns to heaven to make his report, offerings of liquor and delectable foods are offered to make him happy and maybe a bit tipsy. Additionally just prior to his return on New Year’s eve, his lips are smeared with honey to “sweeten” his words or to stick his lips together so he cannot report. The effigy is then burned, and a new one is put in its place. If you are lucky enough to have a statue of the Kitchen God, it is removed and cleaned to begin a new cycle.
My kitchen god is in Hong Kong awaiting my return. He oversaw my purchase and seasoning of two good and trusty woks that prepared many a delicious dish. He also inspired my cooking and kept all who entered our home well-fed and happy.
The Kitchen God has been invited into our Phoenix home, and he will preside over the health and happiness if this place. Also, a new flat-bottomed wok found is way here just in time to cook for the beginning of the year of the horse.
AZ Lemon Tree
Life is rough here in Arizona. We are enjoying a beautiful stretch of weather with crisp mornings, warm days and cool evenings and a bounty of citrus. Citrus in the form of grapefruit, oranges and a plethora of lemons. The lemons came in two forms; actual lemons and a stubborn foot injury.
I am nursing an injury that I sustained in Hong Kong in October. All those hills and stairs and exercise resulted in a stress fracture turned full-on fracture in my right foot; second metatarsal fracture to be exact. Being tough and not believing that there could be anything wrong exacerbated the situation. So now I am sporting a lovely boot and a bone stimulating device for the next several months. This injury has put a wrench in my plans. No driving, no walking and no running (maybe ever again).
We extended our stay in the U.S. for a month to deal with doctors and insurance companies. Both Steve and I will return to Hong Kong the first week of February. Until then, I am making lemon bars, preserved lemons, whiskey sours, lemon creams, candied lemon rind, lemon dressing, lemon chicken AND a whole lot of lemonade.
Some of the ingredients for Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge page 212
I’ve mentioned my friend, Ari, in Minneapolis that makes us sambal bajek and sends it to us so we will never be out of supply. She is a wonderful cook, and we were regularly treated to her Indonesian specialties while we were neighbors. Sometimes these dishes awaited us, hot on the counter, when we arrived home from work or a long trip. Long beans was one of our favorite dishes.
I looked forward to making this dish from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young. You can find the recipe on page 212. If you have not bought this book and you are interested in the techniques of stir-frying, go get the book!
I see long beans year round in the wet makets of Hong Kong. Long beans grow well in southern China. Not exactly a green bean as we know it in the US. It does grow to about 18 inches which is a little short of the other name we know, yard-long beans. It has a softer texture than a more common green bean.
One other intriguing ingredient in this dish is the Chinese sausages. They are plentiful in the dry markets in Hong Kong. They come in a variety of textures. Some are made from duck liver and have a blue color. Some are very dry and there are also fresh varieties. I chose a dried, smoked but not-too-dry option.
Chinese sausage ready for the wok
Wow! Talk about comfort food! The sausage was so flavorful. Just a little sweet but tender and moist. The pork mince is very satisfying. We both just loved this. All the flavor and the crunch. I could not find Sichuan preserved vegetables, just preserved vegetables. So, I added sichuan pepper corns with the pork mince. It added the spicy flavor that we like.
- Yummy! This was a great tummy satisfying dish!
Yummy! This is a tummy satisfying dish!
This is a winner of a recipe, but maybe just once a year in our house. Definately not in the Weight Watchers recipe category.
Things have finally returned to what is now normal for us in Hong Kong. After five weeks of geographical separation (for Steve and me), three weeks of touring Kam around China, Vietnam and Hong Kong and typhoon Usagi, Steve left for his regular commute to Shenzhen and I settled down to plow through the hundres of photos taken over the summer.
It has been a very hot summer. During the month of August andwhile I was in the US, Steve reported very wet and humid weather. It continued to be hot and humid in September, but we did not have near the reported rain. As much as I wanted to, we had headed out every morning only to return sweat-drenched and thankful for air conditioning.
We did not waste any time when Kam arrived and set out to tackle a fairly long list of activites: Disneyland; Danang, Vietnam; egg tarts; Hue, Vietnam; Celestial Lady Pagoda on the picturesque Perfume River in Hue; vegetarian lunch with the monk; ghost city of Vietnam; visit to schools in Vietnam; sunrise at China Beach; Long’s coffee; a visit to “my school” for Lantern Festival; Ocean Park roller coasters; pandas, egg tarts; monkeys; Sham Shui Po; the Great Wall; Forbidden City; the best breakfast ever in Vietnam for $1.75 USD; Lama Temple; egg tarts; planes; trains; taxis; great Chinese food in Beijing; watching a “foreigner” eat a roasted spider;shopping in Lo Wu; Dum Sum lunch; meeting the all the ladies; mahjong; winning in Macau; eating as much as we could; a trip to The Peak; Star Ferry; hydro ferry ;Fernando’s; really bad air in Beijing; Ozone bar on the 118th floor; Peking Duck; Tiananmen Square; the gate of heavely peace; finding Kam’s “favorite restaurant in the world”.
Near Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Monkeys in the trees
Panda at Ocean Park
By the way, egg tarts were a hugh hit with Kam. She ate them in several places, including the elevator. Her verdict on who has the best…..Tai Cheong Bakery on Lyndhurst Terrace in Hong Kong. She picked them for the buttery crust. I prefer the egg tarts from Macau at Margaret e Nata alley cafe. I love the flaky crust and the carmelized custard top.
Kam’s favorite egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery
Enjoying egg tarts and OJ at Margaret e Nata cafe in Macau
On the 7th Level of Celestial Lady Pagoda, Vietnam
The photo above shows Kam in the window of the 7th Level at the Celestial Lady Pagoda. This was a rare treat for a vistor. We were allowed to climb all seven levels of the pagoda. the top was about 2X3 feet with this small window. It was a very lucky experience for us thanks to our friend Duong in Vietnam and the kindness and interest of the senior monk. We also were invited to lunch.
City, clouds and jungle
We have lived in Hong Kong now for 10 months. A day rarely passes that I don’t marvel at the reality of living here. With social media and FaceTime, my bouts of homesickness are infrequent and mostly centers around the missing of my daughter. Otherwise, I am very happy living in Hong Kong and having this experience.
When you make a move like this to a place that is so very different from where you have ever lived, I think you block out the things that have the potential to scare you or make you worry. Seeing unpleasant sights in the markets, the reality of getting shots for dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and large spiders top my list.
Last week I had a dose of reality. While playing mahjong with friends that have lived in Hong Kong for many years the subject of snakes, specifically cobras, came up. I balked at the idea of a cobra being outside a zoo and within a hundred miles of me. I had seen a snake or two, three or four in the markets, but not a cobra and not outside of a cage. Of course I am not in denile of the fact that jungles do contain snakes, I just did not want to think about them. Yet,my friends insisted that there were cobras in Hong Kong and several other deadly snakes.
The next morning, I did a search of the South China Morning Post archives and low and behol,d I found many and recent articles on the numbers of snakes living in and around Hong Kong. And yes, cobras topped the list. The only comfort that I found was that most of the snakes that are dangerous don’t live in the dense jungle and hilly area that I frequent. They like the flats and near the water.
The second reality for me was also delivered by the South China Morning Post last week. Because we have had well-above-average rainfall this year, there is a major outbreak of Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis due to the high numbers of misquitos.
Even though these diseases seemed so very out of reach for me, I am glad I got the entire series of recommended shots for living in Hong Kong, which included Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. Now I guess I better start carrying a snake-bite kit! Do they make those for cobras?
Another simple and very flavorful recipe from Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge by Grace Young. Stir-Fried Cilantro Chili Noodles with Egg page 266
In Hong Kong, one might think that it would be easy to find just about anything for a stir fry, but not the case. Surprisingly, cilantro rarely exists in any quantity in most markets be it local street or upscale western. When I find cilantro, I buy it. I saw a big batch at my neighborhood wet market and snapped it up for this recipe. It turned out to be six US dollars worth! The recipe calls for Anaheim chilies, while these are becoming quite “pedestrian” in the states, they are non-existant here. I decided to try a “capiscam” (that was how it was labled) that was long and a beautiful deep green.
Steve loves to take a quick photo of the stir-fry action in progress
The dish turned out lovely. As a matter of fact, I went out and scoured the markets for more cilantro and made it twice last week. Steve and I both loved it. The easy and simple sauce is absorbed by the noodles and the capiscam I used was perfect heat.
Something I learned about noodles. The first package in the photo below was used on the first try. It was a little sticky, but the flavor was great. The second was made from another variety of rice stick noodles and they were marked “chewy.” They were much much better for this recipe. Not sticky and had some body to them. Also, I measured the noodles after soaking and I think that was correct as the ratio to sauce, egg and cilantro seemed perfect.
Prep and ingredients for Cilantro Chili Noodles
A Winng Hand
Two things that I decieded I would learn in Hong Kong is speaking Cantonese and learning to play mahjong. The Cantonese is not really going very well. But, I have become hooked on mahjong and can play fairly well.
The hand above is basically a “hole-in-one” for mahjong. I will probably never see this hand again in the rest of my life playing mahjong. It is called The Thirteen Orphans hand and one of the higheset scoring hands in the game. It consists of all for winds, a one and a nine of each common suit and one of each honor tile.
About 60% of the hand was drawn from the beginning. Because it was so odd to me, meaning there were no pairs and no strings of common suits, I consulted a book to see what I could do to make sense of the hand. I saw the Thirteen Orphans and decided to try. About six moves later I got the mahjong.
I sent this photo to Steve in the Shenzhen office and asked if he would check with some of the staff that play mahjong to help me score the hand. They said it was a great and of high scoring value, but it did not come out until a week or two later that they actually undrestood that I had won with the hand. A few jaws dropped in amazment. Victor said, ” I have been playing mahjong my whole life and have never seen that hand.”
After that win, all other hands seem mundane.Now, I am spoiled.
A winning hand
I was really happy to see this dish on the list of upcoming recipes. Having been to Macau several times in the last six months, I am in love with the merging of Chinese and Portuguese flavors. I wrote about our first visit to Macau in March of this year if you are interested.
I really loved this dish. Just like the Burmese chicken, I love the layers of flavor. Usually not a big fan of coconut milk in most recipes, however, I was pleased with and the creaminess that it provided for the sauce. I used smoked paprika instead of sweet and was very happy with the flavoring there. And unlike the the basmati rice from last recipe, I found it easy to obtain Spanish chorizo. I opted for the mild, but I am sorry that I did. I would have liked it a bit spicer, but the cured meat complimented the chicken well. Surely we will enjoy this dish again.
If you want to try making this dish and many other wonderful stir-fry recipes, check out Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge and join Wok Wednesdays which can be found on Facebook or at http://wokwednesdays.wordpress.com/
The ruins of St. Paul Macau
This recipe comes from Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge by Grace Young page 265. It is part of the Wok Wednesdays project which can be found on Facebook and www.wokwednesdays.com
Something close to Chinese Indian Vegetarian Fried Rice
Such a simple recipe with such simple ingredients .Or so you would think. Looking forward to making this recipe, and I was so sure I had everything I needed except the Basmati rice. Just a quick trip to the store that turned into a trip to three stores and no Basmati rice to be found in the Mid-levels in Hong Kong! Plan B was to use jasmine long grain rice, but I did not have any leftover as suggested for fried rice. Moving forward, decided to use the jasmine rice freshly cooked.
After the trip to multiple stores for rice, in pouring rain I might add, I set upon my mission to complete the the fried rice. After finding no ketchup in the refrigerator and no chili garlic sauce ( I thought I had those staples) the improvising continued. I would make this dish, or a reasonable incarnation of it or die trying! I used tomato paste diluted with a bit of sugar and worchestershire for the ketchup. Easy enough. I then opted to use some homemade Indonesian Sambal Bajak in place of the garlic chili sauce. I also used veggies on hand which consisted of red pepper, red onion and carrots.
I was so very pleased with the result, although I am sure it is nothing like what the original recipe intended. But we gobbled it up with pleasure. I served it with stir-fried lemon and salmon.
My one-time Minnesota neighbor and great friend, Ari, made me a supply of Sambal Bajak to bring to Hong Kong. She is a native of Indonesia and an excellent cook. Although I have purchased sambal bajak at market, there is nothing like hers to be found. It is a delight and a staple in our house. A very complex mixture of flavors with an incredible heat! Not for anyone that does not like it “hot”. We use it on eggs, baked sweet potatoes, stir-fried cabbage, chicken with rice in lettuce wraps……… I could go on and on and on. Anyway, THANK YOU Ari for the sambal and THANK YOU Grace for the inspiration. I will diligently look in local gourmet stores for some Basmati rice and attempt the recipe again with all the prescribed ingredients.
Update: Five stores later, I found the basmati rice!
This recipe comes from Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge by Grace Young page 124 and is part of the Wok Wednesdays project that can be found on Facebook.
I was looking forward to making this dish. I love the savory and sweet combo. It is visually very pleasing as well. The ingredients are simple to prepare and the easy-to-find ingredients make is a cinch to prepare.
Easy to prepare and ready to wok-n-roll!
What stands out in this dish is the meat preparation. Velveting is described as an advanced technique, but the directions in the cookbook are very explicit and easy to follow. This was my second time employing the velveting technique, and it really produces moist, plump chicken pieces.
Ginger Mango Chicken in the process.
I liked this dish, but not as much as other recipes we have enjoyed from SFTTSE. However, I am a fan of velveting chicken. This dish would be good for people that do not like a lot of spice. It is a mild flavor.
The finished dish.