Showing posts with label chinese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chinese. Show all posts

Monday, 11 August 2014

comfort, lazy noodle soup and other favourite comfort foods

A friend asked me for my top five favourite things to cook, and I listed them as follows:

Laska
Kari Kapitan (often with oyster mushrooms and firm tofu instead of the mock chicken)
Lentil Ragu + long pasta (sometimes also with tempeh)
yellow Dahl
Pasta Salad made with whatever is in the house (and, hopefully, five spice tempeh)

However then I realised I had missed one, because I have never previously blogged it; mostly, because I have never considered it worth blogging. Here, then, is one of the laziest things in my cooking repertoire: noodle soup.

Please note that when I say lazy, I mean it is lazy for me. Your laziness may vary. It is also a very flexible, forgiving recipe. You can add and subtract as you deem necessary (though I really mean it about the star anise).

makes: about two portions

ingredients:
2 star anise
1 carrot
2 or 3 bok choy (or a whole lot of chinese cabbage)
dark soy (you don't want it to go dark brown but you want it shaded - 3 tablespoons? less? something like that)
2 fresh chillis
5 cups water
1 tsp dry powdered stock, if you have it
1 inch fresh ginger, washed but not peeled

whatever noodles or tofu or frozen dumplings you have lying around the house, suitable for 2 people
any other vegies or whatever that you deem appropriate

method:
Bring water to a boil in a pot. In the meantime julienne the carrot, saving the ends; cut off the ends of the bok choy. Throw these ends, plus the star anise, soy, chilli, stock and ginger into the pot. Reduce heat and let simmer for twenty minutes, lid on but ajar. When it smells AMAZING, add your vegetables and noodles and dumplings as appropriate. I like to use a stick of rice noodles and two cakes of yellow mee, already soaked in hot water and rinsed to remove the starch. If I'm using firm tofu I'll add it at the same time as the carrots to give it the opportunity to soak in the flavour. Add the bok choy leaves and stems separate from each other, but near the end. But not so near the end that they're not soft. SOFT BOK CHOY/CHINESE CABBAGE IS LIFE.

Ahem.

Remove the star anise, carrot ends and ginger before serving, unless you really want to eat boiled star anise (I don't recommend it).

I often eat with extra soy+chilli sauce that I make at the beginning of the process, which gives the chilli and the soy time to infuse each other.

This stock, with the same things but bigger proportions, is good for all sorts of chinese vego cooking. Also add garlic cloves (peeled) and oyster mushrooms to the stock while it's going for a fuller flavour. Very authentic. TRUST ME. TRUST THIS AZN FACE.

Monday, 23 June 2014

3G Restaurant [vancouver]

MY GLOB I LOVE YUM CHA

We went to 3G in Vancouver and when we arrived at 11:30 on a Saturday morning it was EMPTY so I was unsure but Alex and Liz assured me it would be good and it was. 3G is a vego Chinese restaurant with clearly labeled vegan options (good work). 

3G is fill in the boxes rather than come around with trolleys; we picked a selection of yum cha and lunch items, though a few (GLUTINOUS RICE WITH CHICKEN) were unavailable. From the yum cha menu we went: prawn dumplings (steamed), fried bok choy dumplings, fried tofu skin, sesame balls, char siu bao, fried meat puff and spring rolls. From the lunch menu we got chicken drumsticks and a fried noodles dish. 

This was a lovely start to my first full day in Vancouver. The chicken was very crispy, and surprisingly made of gluten rather than tofu skin (as I’m used to). The tofu skin fried was a highlight, it was like a murtabak in many ways, so light and crispy and filled with something delicious.

Baozi was light and fluffy and not too doughy, a nice ratio of dough to char siu. 


The sesame balls and the meat puff were not my thing, made of that really chewy flour that I haaaate enduring at yum cha. 

Only one photo because you know what yum cha looks like: it looks like fried and/or steamed things. YES. 

3424 Cambie Street
Vancouver

Ordering at the table, toilet hard to get to, no step to enter (I think? Maybe). Menu in English + Chinese characters. Not really much GF. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

vegie mum, doncaster

When I first went vego Lotus, the Chinese-Malaysian restaurant in Northbridge, was my life saver, giving me all the delicious comfort foods that I required without schlepping out to my parental house or cooking it myself. The biggest problem with Malaysian food is all the secretly animal stuff, the cockles in your laksa and the lard in your CKT, which requires intense questioning deng deng boring lah, so I usually just have to make it myself.

So I've always wanted to go to Vegie Mum in Doncaster, because I'd heard it was Chinese-Malaysian vego but whenever I tried to go I was prevented by things like Chinese New Year and failing to book, or the lack of PT out there and my lack of car ownership (no regrets).

Anyway now I have been twice in the last three months, and it is all Fiona's fault as she lives in the dreaded Eastern Suburbs and can't travel very far because baby. We even went there this week, which Fi has already blogged! Plus added park.

Because we are not heathens Chinese-Malaysian food is, like regular Chinese food, a sharing kind of thing, except when you are selfish like me and insist that it's very important you get char siu noodle soup because it's one of your favourite things to eat ever and you never get to eat it because you're not gonna make your own vegan char siu.

I did this, and then Fi ordered the laksa because she had never had it before quite recently and now like all good people loves it, and then I tasted her soup and I have never before experienced such regrets. Next time I am gonna eat that laksa for sure. Look at that mock prawn! The only downside of the laksa is that it contains eggplant, which is a crime against laksa. There is no downside to the char siu noodles, except a) it's not laksa and b) you have to remember to specify not wonton noodles, because wonton noodles contain secret egg.

I have previously eaten their CKT (which is excellent); their kari kapitan and roti (good); and their spring rolls (nothing special).

Vegie Mum is pretty standard suburban Chinese except for its vegetarianness; the tables are plastic and so are the chairs, it's all bright white tiles and a little dingy. There's a small step in to the restaurant, can order and pay at the table; CC is taken. There are always people in there, and the menu is in Chinese and English. The Chinese Malaysian owner doesn't seem to believe that I'm Malaysian, so one day I'm gonna take my mother in there and really pointedly talk in Hokkien or Manglish or something.

Vegie Mum
27 Village Ave
Doncaster
Not open Mondays

Sunday, 6 October 2013

shu restaurant [collingwood]

蜀 is a short form for Sichuan, and Shu is all about the Sichuanese food and flavours, though a little toned down for the Collingwood palate.

The dishes at Shu are seasonal and organic where possible. There is no menu, the food you're served is dependent on what's available and what the chef wishes to prepare. And every Wednesday is Vegan Wednesday at Shu, where you can get a 12 dish vegan banquet for $40; and so, having only found out of its existence less than 48 hours earlier, this is what Cindy and Michael, Hayley and myself decided to do this Wednesday past.

We started with four individual portion dishes: house made tofu with cinnamon-infused soy sauce and a rocket flower (cold); purple carrots with house made pickled chilli and borage (the purple carrot was raw and thinly sliced so it became a sort of plate) (cold); daikon roll with enoki, zucchini flower and cucumber (cold); tofu, soybean and sesame dumplings.



I was especially taken with the cinnamon-infused soy sauce and the house made tofu: the flavours were mild enough to really appreciate the loveliness of the tofu, but I loved the delicate cinnamon-ness of the soy sauce.

It's good that three of these dishes were cold and therefore we didn't have to eat them in a hurry; four bloggers at a table meant it took approximately a million years to photograph and take notes.

This was followed by a mizuna, pickled cucumber and trumpet mushroom salad, and a cashew, kale, broccoli tops and garlic shoot salad. Later in the evening, when yet another greens dish came out (broccoli and cauliflower, this time), this started becoming all a bit overwhelming, but at this point I loved the broccoli top and garlic shoot salad, it had a beautiful light flavour and the garlic shoots were excellent.

We also saw dishes with eggplant with broad beans, chilli (lots), calendula and onion; fried tofu with bean shoots and nasturtiums (not spicy at all); and tofu with wild coriander (kind of mapo doufu-y but sad lack of mala).

We ended with unanimously the greatest dishes of the evening. Dish number 11 was individual portions of fresh noodles, served with asparagus, preserved gailan and a walnut infused oil. This had a lovely flavour, maybe there was sichuan chilli in it (but if so only mildly), and I could definitely have kept on eating these noodles and I'm glad it's not a seasonal dish because I want to eat it again.

The final dish was potatoes in a whole lot of spices. Not necessarily hot spicy but my word was it delicious, and I happily ate the last remaining potato in the bowl.

The repetition of the green-ness is obviously a restriction of the seasonal element of Shu's menu - though I do not at all criticise them for it - Rebecca and Shu go out to a farm to pick the ingredients every Wednesday and it's all a bit fun. I love the variety of it and the surprise as well, the flavours were lovely (though I could have used some more spiciness, and we'd been warned it was spicy and this was a lie~).

I wasn't stuffed full by the end, which was a little disappointment (we walked to Berrissimo for desserts), since I'm used to having too much to eat at a Chinese banquet.

I will very cheerfully visit again. I hope there are more adventures in delicious carbs.

The service was lovely though disclaimer: Rebecca knew who we all were. The lighting was dim and there was a step going in. I didn't check out the toilets, but Michael broke them so look out for that.


Shu Restaurant
147 Johnston Street
Collingwood



Thursday, 22 August 2013

rolling like a steamed bun: a day of eating in singapore

If you're around this blog for more than five seconds, you'll know how much I love sharing meals I ate at places you can't go because they're not in Melbourne, so here is a recent day of Singapore noms and fun times had by me and my darling friend Em of Sugarspoons, who you may remember from previous adventures on Vegmel when she lived in Melbourne.

We started our day at Jones the Grocer at the Mandarin Gallery. Jones the Grocer is an Australian chain that does groceries and has a few cafes across Australia and into Singapore. The centre was mostly closed but Jones the Grocer was bustling - so bustling it took forever for us to be seated and served! However the service was an aside, because the Very Important reason for our visit was that Jones the Grocer, as an Australian chain, can actually provide us with soy flat whites! (Unlike the Dome at the Singapore Art Museum, which, despite being Western Australian, cannot) We shared a perfectly serviceable tomatoes and avocado and jam on toast (and I had a second soy flattie), before we meandered off to buy presents for babies and also on secret Azn Girls Business. 

After ogling the totally expensive teas at TWC (you know it's expensive because their waitstaff are tall white anglo boys! and also their tea is like $100SGD for 100gm) and visiting the masking tape exhibition at the top of Ion (totally amazing, Em had to be physically restrained from touching and buying things), we were met by G and headed off to the Living Cafe, a rawish cafe that has lots of delicious vegan, raw and gluten-free treats.

At the Living Cafe we were overwhelmed by choices, and went for the time honoured tradition of sharing a whole lot of things. We ordered the raw zucchini lasagna and the veggie bowl with brown rice as our mains to share. The zucchini lasagna was lovely, however it had to deal with the unfortunate competition of yong's in my heart, and it couldn't compare. The lasagna was placed together as we watched (rather than pre-prepared and stored for delicious cashew cheese compression as at yong's), and while the tomato and red capsicum sauce (and the cashew mayonnaise) was extremely tasty, the slightly under-ripe-ness of the tomato was off putting. Fortunately the veggie bowl was a nice thing to alternate with it, and we were able to cap off our savouries by stealing some of G's sweet potato wedges.

Dessert caused us some consternation. There was a whole cabinet full of amazing looking delicious raw cheesecakes - most of them containing honey! We were devastated, but fortunately and to our delights we were informed by the chef (a vegan!) that the recipe on the chocolate cheesecake had recently changed, and so we were able to sample these two raw vegan cheesecake delights. They were amazing, a++ would eat again.

I was so happy with these desserts that I took back to my hotel raw cookies for the fam, and a piece of banana cake for myself for my plane ride back to Australia the next day.

I would sample the delights of the Living Cafe again, but I probably wouldn't try the same savoury dishes.

After some meandering (and purchasing of Crumpler products - by the Singaporeans, not by me, obviously) we headed over to JOY OF JOYS Haidilao, which you may remember from such adventures as that time Stephanie lived in Beijing and ate nothing but hotpot. Haidilao has recently opened up its first Singaporean branch and I loved it so much I took the fam back the next day! Totally worth it. My Chinese tutor (from Beijing) joined us, and it was lots of fun catching up with her, gossiping in Mandarin and stuffing my face with all my favourite things. We ordered the spicy/mushroom double pot, because it is always the perfect choice, and I got to use my old friend the Haidilao ipad and we got dancing noodles and lots of mushrooms and it was just the best.

And then I went back to my hotel, had a cup of tea with the fam and fell into bed, my belly stuffed until I was a steamed bun! Perfect.

Jones the Grocer is located in the maze that is the Mandarin Gallery. There's no steps but the tables are close together. It is cafe and cafe-goods only (though I love the supermarket located in Ion near the H+M). Get to either of these places on the MRT.

The Living Cafe is located at 779 Bukit Timah Rd. I can't remember if there's a step for entry. There is a little bit of free parking (though not much).

Haidilao of joys and delights is located at River Valley Road in Clarke Quay, near the Japanese Centre. Get there on the MRT.

No idea of prices as my noms were sponsored by Em, in exchange for my love and a giant bag of vegan goodies from Melbourne.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

dainty sichuan [melbourne cbd]

Monthly 北京人 dinner was held at Dainty Sichuan on Bourke Street last week, and it was so good that I not only can't believe I've never been there before, but I cannot wait to get back there again.

the spread at dainty

Just getting inside was the most Chinese experience I've had since returning to Australia. A broken escalator, a queue at the door, westerners turning away with a grumble when told of the wait time, a lot of Chinese people sitting around waiting for their turn to get in. The smell of chilli and frying and tea and beer on the air. Oh so good, oh so delicious. I even spoke Mandarin on my way in.

We ordered five dishes between the six of us, which actually turned out to be a perfect amount of food. One was meaty (kungpao chicken, ex-housemate V reports it was really good), the other four were straight from the 'vegetable' section of the menu: fish-fragrant eggplant, tudousi (yesssss), a mushroom + greens dish, and a dish predominately comprised of lotus root and black fungus.

The mushrooms and greens dish had a whole lot of oyster mushrooms, and those oyster mushrooms were perfect. The tudousi was tudousi (ie, potato and delicious and oily), and the fish fragrant eggplant (free of fish, if you are unfamiliar with the dish) was so good. The dish with the lotus was a refreshing change from the spice and the oil.

Service was a little hard to attract, and tea was charged $2pp which is the most I've ever paid for tea at a Chinese restaurant (though they did obey the action for 'omg more water in my teapot'). Bookings are definitely required as it was so busy. But I loved this meal. Food came out food and it was all delicious, and it only came to $17pp. I definitely look forward to returning.

Next time I'd like to order the mapo doufu (modified to have no meat), the cabbage and chilli, and the cold black fungus with chilli, which is an old favourite. I hope to eat these things in the very near future, so hit me up if you need a friend to go with!

I really love Sichuanese food. Om nom nom.

Wendy has reviewed the South Yarra location recently and said nice things about the cabbage and chilli (om nom, one of my favourite dishes)

Dainty Sichuan
Level 2
206 Bourke Street
Melbourne
96502188

Get there on most trams and trains. It's in the shopping centre next to JB-Hifi, follow the signs up to the karaoke on the top floor. There's an escalator up, but I'm not sure if there's a lift.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Colourful Yunnan [carlton]

For all the food blogging I did while I was in Beijing, there are a few places I visited regularly that I never got around to blogging, for a variety of reasons. One of those places was a little Yunnanese restaurant close to where some of my friends lived, at which we quickly became regulars, often ordering the same dishes over and over again. It was my first real experience with Yunnanese food, and when I left China it was one I was worried I'd struggle to continue, given the lack of Yunnanese food in Melbourne. 

The only restaurant that Google spits out, other than the Neil-Perry Spice Temple, is Colourful Yunnan, on the corner of Grattan and Swanston in Carlton. So it was to here that me and my China adventure compatriots ventured on Friday night. 

There are so many amazing things on the menu here (take your meat eating friends). 

Wendy and I carefully selected some noodles, a delicious cabbage dish, and my long-time favourite, 土豆丝 (shredded potato). 

Yunnan food is spicy. Not as spicy as Sichuanese food, but it's getting up there, with lots of chilli all over the place. So I tried to order a mix of dishes, including some that would be less spicy for our less spicy friends, which means that we missed out on some of our favourites (cold black fungus - so good, but if anything the fact that it is chilled makes it more spicy. I know it sounds odd but trust me, if you like mushrooms and spicy food, order this. Or wait for my next review). 

土豆丝 was fine. Nothing super special, a little too heavy on the chilli and the oil, but pleasant enough. 

Chinese cabbage I love at any time, and I especially love it sour and spicy (算拉白菜). So good, and this one was great, I haven't had it in a while and it was a delight to eat. 

oooh noodles

These noodles! Wendy cleverly took a photo of the menu because the name was long, but foolishly I thought I'd remember it. I was wrong, and I will update this post when I am able with the name. However what I was not wrong about was the deliciousness. We had to order this vego specific, I think, and it comes with chilli, carrot, peanuts, mustard greens, beanshoots, hand pulled noodles and tofu, and you mix it all together and it's great. 

Service was prompt, even when we ordered more dishes halfway through the meal. This entire meal cost me $12. So cheap, so good, so happy. Will return, even if just for the noodles, which would make a meal for me and maybe even some takeaway.

Colourful Yunnan
680 Swanston Street
Carlton

This blog post suggests there is also a Flinders Lane location

Get there on any tram that goes to Uni Melb. Totally inaccessible to wheelchairs. Very brightly lit, can order and pay at table. Outdoor seating. Menu is in English and Chinese characters, but is very word heavy and a little confusing. Cash only.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Gong De Lin / 功德林 [melbourne cbd]


Hey remember that time I lived in China and ate the most amazing Chinese vegetarian food? Yeah, me too. I love Chinese Australian vego food, but there are definitely some distinct differences, so I was super excited to hear that Gong De Lin, one of China's oldest and most awesome vegetarian restaurants, had come to Melbourne. Wendy canvassed her veg family members who claimed it was part of the brand, not some copy cat, and we immediately scheduled a visit to check it out. 

Gong De Lin specialises in Shanghainese style food, and the menu is filled with all sorts of delicious goodies, lots of mushroom dishes and an awesome cold menu, which is definitely something I've been missing. If you've never tried the cold items on a mainland Chinese menu, I recommend it. 

twirling the 上海冷面 at gongdelin

Wendy and I were immediately drawn to the 上海冷面, which literally translates to Shanghai Cold Noodles, but I'm not sure if that's their English name. Anyway, they are some fun noodles to eat and I love them very much. They are hand pulled and freshly made. They are usually served with an array of sauces so you can mix up whatever your favourite combination is. My favourite is soy sauce, sesame sauce, and chilli oil with a smattering of vinegar soy, which nearly brought Wendy and I to blows because she likes to use all of the vinegar soy. 

sauces for 上海冷面 at gongdelin

Although the noodles are on the menu as a two person serving, we decided to supplement by sampling the mapo doufu. This was a great if disorienting version of this dish, mostly because I'm so used to eating mapo doufu in non-veg restaurants, where I ask for it without meat, so to get it with the little meaty bits was freaky. But delicious. I enjoyed this dish, though it was a little sweeter than I'm used to, mostly because Shanghainese food is often a little sweeter than Sichuanese food. 

mapo doufu at gongdelin

Gong De Lin is brand new in its Swanston Street position. The service was really delightful, with the waitstaff being very helpful letting us buy off menu (extra noodle portions) and very friendly. The menu is a little on the upper edge of a reasonable city lunch, at $38 for the two of us, with a little extra noodles each to take home for dinner. 

Gong De Lin is located on top of Noodle Kingdom, and I think they share a kitchen which comes up via a food elevator that buzzes when the food arrives. This was annoying but easy to get used to.

And I'm going to get used to it. I definitely plan to return. As much as I love Enlightened Cuisine, I think this is probably my new favourite Chinese vego restaurant in Melbourne, and I'm very happy to have another choice when in the CBD.

Gong De Lin
Level 3, 264 Swanston Street
Melbourne
Open 10am-10pm 7 days

Get there on any train or just about any tram. Brightly lit, menus in English and Chinese. Access via an elevator, no stairs. Toilets are accessible. Ordering and paying can take place at the table, though they're fairly tightly packed. 

Other reviews: Milkbar Mag

Monday, 11 February 2013

into the new year

water dragon, claire tracey, 2012 
dragon made of water bottles!
恭喜发财!新年快乐!etc etc

hope the nian was scared away and you got lots of oranges and noodles and good wishes and little sacks of gold (ie, dumplings). i had a dumpling party and failed to take any photos, except of me pulling faces with my decorations, but hayley brought tofu pancakes and catherine made saffron bread shaped like a snake, and everybody wore red and at 1am i called my mother whose reunion party (3 hours behind) was still going, and i had a lovely time.

dumplings are super easy to make, you should make them always

i hope your year is prosperous and golden

and full of noodles

Thursday, 18 October 2012

disanxian & tofu + cabbage soup

Two of my favourite discoveries while I was living in Beijing were 地三鲜 (disanxian) and 豆腐白菜汤 (doufubaicaitang). 地三鲜 is the greatest eggplant dish ever, featuring the 'three earth treasures', a complicated and oil heavy (but delicious!) combination of eggplant, potato and green capsicum in a soy saucey roux. 豆腐白菜汤 in contrast is a simple soup made up of tofu, chinese cabbage, and not a lot else, which is deceptive in its tastey-ness. It looks really boring and sounds really plain, but it's actually one of my favourite soups ever. Be warned if you order either of these in restaurants, though - sometimes they're made with chicken stock!

As I have mentioned before I learnt how to cook a lot of dishes during my year in China, and I hope to share a lot of them with you now that I'm back in my own kitchen and trying them out here at home, but these are by far my favourites and hence why they were almost the first thing I cooked upon my return. The delay in blogging them is mostly because I was too lazy to translate out of Chinese and into English for you. Sorry! I promise I do love you!

I'm posting these two recipes together because I only have the one picture - tofu and cabbage in a white bowl on a white background makes for the brightest photo ever! So it didn't really work out.
地三鲜和豆腐白菜汤
地三鲜 / Disanxian 
Three Earth Treasures
ingredients
2 garlic cloves, minced ish
two chinese soup spoon of dark soy, and the same of light soy
half a cup of stock
a little cornstarch

1 big eggplant (or 2 small eggplants), cut into chunks that are about twice as big as the potato.
2-3 medium potatoes, cut into funny, irregular but similarly sized chunks
1 green capsicum, cut into chunks

a whole lot of oil

method
Bring up the heat on your wok and load it up with some oil. Fry the potatoes until golden! Remove them, and (in the same oil, add more if necessary) fry the eggplant until golden! Fry the capsicum for a minute or two! Remove most of the oil (if you need to, I usually use just enough oil from the beginning that by the time I get to this stage there's not much left whoops), leaving just enough to do some stirfrying.

Fry the garlic, then add the stock and the soy sauce. Bring the soup to a boil, and thicken it, then add the vegetables and give it all a chance to reduce. You want this dish to be a little saucy but not too much!

Fried and delicious, it's so tasty. Serve with other dishes and something carby.


豆腐白菜汤 
Tofu + Cabbage Soup

I would just like to reiterate that there are no words to describe how much I love this soup. It can also be served with some rice noodles, but I like to have it as a final dish in a banquet.

ingredients
an appropriate amount of chinese cabbage, enough to fit into two hands when it's shredded thickly
five or six cups of veggie stock
a shake or two of salt
a shake of rice wine
thinly sliced ginger, about 2cm
400g firm tofu, diced into cubes of about 2cm
a teaspoon of sesame oil
optional: a star anise, a shake or three of light soy sauce, some rice noodles, dried shiitake mushrooms

method
Bring stock to a boil and add the ginger, salt, cabbage and rice wine, as well as the soy sauce and star anise if you're adding it. Allow to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, then add tofu, and allow to cook through (about five minutes). Add (rehydrated) mushrooms, noodles, or sesame oil at this point if you're adding them.

Serve with your meal. It's delicious.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

dan dan mian / 担担面

As soon as I got back to Melbourne, as per discussion with Wendy, I started search Melbourne's Chinese grocers for Very Important Ingredients, in case she would have to sneak them in on her return. Then, just over a week ago, my cookbooks arrived in one of my boxes posted from China, and I was able to start the joys of replicating the things I learnt.
Dandanmian / 担担面
One of the things I was looking for was sichuan peppercorns, which Cindy kindly provided to me, on the condition that I write up the things that I cooked with it. And I am happy to oblige!

I was tweeting with my friend Stefefanie (defined so because I am the Steph who came first) at the same time as deciding on this recipe, and she mentioned that dan dan mian is a go-to dish for her because it's so easy. I'd suggest, it's an easy recipe if you don't decide to a) grind your own sichuan peppercorns, and b) also decide to make your own infused chilli oil before starting.* It's still pretty easy, though! And super delicious.

dan dan mian / 担担面

these proportions will make two servings

ingredients

for the sauce:

1 teaspoon ground sichuan peppers
a whole lot of chilli oil, enough to make it super spicy but not so spicy you couldn't eat it, this will vary on your chilli oil and your tolerance. i recommend five or six tablespoons.

1.5 cup stock (I used the massel vego chicken stock, but vege is fine)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 clove minced garlic
a heaped half tablespoon of tahini (or sesame paste, if you can find it)
1 tablespoon chinese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil

"meat"
200g plain tempeh (crumbed)
handful dried shitake mushrooms
little peanut oil
1 clove minced garlic
minced ginger (about a cm worth)
a shake of rice wine
a shake or three of dark soy sauce
2 spring onions (chopped) (including both green and white bits, but keep separate)
one small carrot, grated

some noodles! enough for two people. preferably yellow wheat noodles, but whatever you prefer is fine.

method

soak the mushrooms in some hot water for 20-25 minutes, until they're soft. squeeze out all the water, and dice them as finely as you can. reserve the mushroom water.

cook the noodles as per your requirements! in the meantime, make the sauce: combine all the sauce ingredients together, add in the mushroom water, and mix them until they're looking well combined. Put this aside, and when the noodles are ready, drain the noodles.

in your wok (or a frypan), fry the garlic, ginger and the white bits of the spring onions in the peanut oil until they're fragrant, then add the tempeh, carrot and mushrooms. fry this until it's starting to colour/cook, then add the soy sauce and fry through. add the rice wine at the end to deglaze and remove from heat.

to serve: noodles in the bottom of the bowl; pour in half of the sauce mixture, and layer the meat mixture on the top. garnish with the green bits from the spring onion.

changes: this dish is often served with bok choi, which is first steamed and then layered in before the meat; sometimes this dish is served dry ish, as here, and sometimes it is served as a spicy oily chilli broth with a few pieces of noodles and meat, in which case double the sauce proportions and leave the rest as is.


*Chilli oil how-to to follow soon

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Haidilao / 海底捞 [beijing]


beginning to set the table
As I've previously blogged, living in Beijing has unexpectedly led to an amazing increase in my obsession with hotpot/steamboat. Frequently I go to Little Sheep, which is a franchise that has a location delightfully close to my house on Ghost Street; however Wendy had mentioned that if there was anywhere a Beijinger would go to hotpot, it would be Haidilao, so when GY suggested we go to hotpot before I left, I was eager to suggest Haidilao. I have in the last week been to Haidilao twice (once with GY and LN, and once with Wendy), and I recommended it very much. 
waiting in heidilao

Haidilao is well-known for excellent service. At the Sanlitun location I experienced a sort of valet-bike parking, where someone helped me find a bay for my bike, and asked if I needed help carrying my bags inside, and when Wendy and I specified that we were strict vegetarians they went out of their way to double check what that meant stockwise, and what would be okay and not okay. It is more expensive than some of the other hotpot restaurants I've been to here in Beijing, though. And it's much, much harder to get a table. At the Wangfujing branch we booked ahead, and the waiting area was full when we went to depart; at Sanlitun we ended up waiting for about 40 minutes to get a table. They provide you with snacks, games to play, and a free manicure while you're waiting for a table, and LN says she often doesn't book if she needs a manicure, so she can wait and get one.

The mushroom broth was amazing, filled with mushrooms and some garlic it had such an excellent flavour. The spicy broth was also quite excellent.  

an array of sauces and things
The thing I love about Haidilao is its excessive complementary condiment wall. Mixing sauces is an excellent part of the hotpot experience - you can choose from (among others) soy sauce ("home made"), sesame sauce, sesame oil, fried peanuts, a soybean paste, a mushroom sauce, a variety of chillis dried, fresh and oiled, green things, vinegar, other types of nuts, and even msg, and that's all without touching the condiments I can't eat. LN introduced me to the concept of creating a dry rub for myself, she used a mixture of salt, dried chillis, and peanuts, which I thought was pretty excellent (though very spicy). The condiments bar also includes a variety of fruits, a pumpkin soup, and some cold Beijing salads (such as tudousi and the smoked tofu strings thing). 
ordering on the heidilao ipad

At Wangfujing ordering takes place via ipad, all in Chinese but with pictures. Ordering at Sanlitun is via a sheet of paper all in characters, but some places (such as Little Sheep) have menus with pictures if you ask for it, so that might still be available. 

some sauces mixed
Haidilao also has noodle dancers, lovely clean toilets, and an awesome array of tofu to put in the boat. 


Various locations around Beijing
Some locations (such as Wangfujing) have lifts, but others are old and not at all accessible. 
Website allegedly has an English version but I've never been able to access it. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

cooking from books

Wendy and I went on an adventure to Wangfujing yesterday, because we want to stock up on Chinese cookbooks before we leave Beijing.
vegetarian books
It was pretty exciting - this is not even half of the vegetarian section. Of course you may recall the problems I have at times had with being vegetarian in Beijing - enduring meat as garnish, 'it doesn't have egg, it's sweet' - so some of these vegetarian cookbooks have the occasional shrimp garnish, but the ones I have are super awesome and I'm so excited.
books purchased
I have eaten so many amazing dishes while I've been in Beijing, that I cannot wait to start making these at home, and for my friends and family at home.

It was funny, my excitment over these cookbooks. I've mostly moved on from cookbooks in my life, because it's so easy to find recipes online. But a lot of this stuff I've never been able to find while searching in English, and when I google in Chinese often my eyes start to glaze over, and it's hard for me to skim read. So these beautiful cookbooks, with pictures, sometimes step by step.

Anyway, prepare yourselves, vegetarian Melbourne, for some delicious new experiments.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

sunao ii [beijing]


Six of us made a visit to Sunao, which I had previously visited on my own at a lunch time, navigating my way through a characters-only menu. We were delighted to find that the dinner menu has English subtitles as well as pictures, so Wendy and I didn’t have to tax ourselves translating for everyone. 




in the restaurant

There were worries, and Wendy and I decided on more and more dishes, that maybe we were ordering too many: fortunately, it appears we ordered just enough.

We started with a plate of fruit (tomato here being considered a fruit), provided with no charge and served with dry ice. The waitress explained that eating fruit after a meal inhibits digestion, which is why they serve it to start the meal – when pressed, she suggested that other restaurants that serve fruit at the end of the meal are very wrong.





fruit

And then the meal itself, oh wow, it was one of the best meals I’ve had here in Beijing, I think.

My favourite was probably the mock fish, with a ‘skin’ and also battered, it was eerily reminiscent of the fish at the EBC. As you can see, it was massive, but we finished it off, and a lot of the sauce, too. Competing for favourite was the peanut tofu, thin slices of tofu served with mushrooms and a sauce that tasted positively gado gado-like.

mock fish peanut tofu

The lemon eggplant was a random choice, ordered because of the batter. If I didn’t know this was eggplant, I wouldn’t have known. The lemon was sweet and tart, and the batter was crisp whilst the eggplant remained soft and flavoursome. This was a good dish, but I felt something was lacking. In a completely surprising occurrence, there was tempeh on this menu! It’s the first time I’ve seen tempeh on a menu in Beijing, so of course I ordered it! Sadly, I wasn’t a fan of this one, served here with a wasabi sauce, though others at the table thought it was tasty.

lemon eggplant the only tempeh i've eaten in beijing

I order kungpao chicken when I can, because V (my previous housemate) loves a (non-vegan) kungpao chicken. The ‘chicken’ in this one was lovely, it soaked up the sauces and complimented the flavours very well. I rarely have had a curry I liked in Beijing, so I also ordered the mock beef curry with a thai sauce. The vegetables in this especially were tasty, but the ‘beef’ was pretty good too, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. I enjoyed this curry.





kungpao vegan chicken mock beef curry with thai sauce

Two dishes I didn’t enjoy so much: something with pumpkin, and the ‘meat cake’ – meat cake looked a bit jian bing like, but there was something about the flavour that I didn’t enjoy. I also wasn’t a fan of these pumpkin cups, I don’t know what I was expecting but I didn’t enjoy the flavour nor the texture, and in the end it was the only dish remaining that we didn’t finish.





meatcake pumpkin



This meal was amazing. I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back to Sunao before I leave Beijing, and I am looking forward to it.

Previous visit: one

Sunao
Ground Floor, East Side
Nanxingcang Business Building
Dongsishitiao
Dongcheng

English + Chinese menu with pictures in the evening, get there on Line 2 (Exit C). Well-lit, little step to enter.

Monday, 9 July 2012

baihe iii [百合素食] [beijing]

Visited Baihe today for lunch! Haven't been for several months, since Charlie's going away in April, but we were at a loose end today and I thought the little walk down would be most excellent. And it was! It was pretty quiet, so service was fast and attentive.



baihe-internal


We went with two of my favourites, the peking duck (with pancakes) (half size) and the dry roasted potatoes, as well as the gailan for some greens (listed on the menu as Cantonese vegetables/ 广东菜).



baihe-potatoes


Danni really wanted to try the pipa chicken drumsticks, despite my insistance that they were not very nice. Guess which penguin was right?! They're always weirdly sweet. Seen here served with strawberry jam.



baihe-pipa

As always, the duck was super delicious, I could totally eat more of that. We also ordered a pot of dragon well tea (龙井茶) which was lovely. 




baihe-duck baihe-tea


Previous visits: for CNY and the first visit (which has Englishness, accessibility details and directions)

Baihe Vegetarian / Lily's Vegetarian / 百合素食
23 Caoyuan Hutong
off dongzhimen nei bei xiaojie
Dongcheng District
Beijing

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

beijing and my hotpot/steamboat obsession

It seems weird to blog about hotpot in the middle of a Beijing summer (currently 27C though, so not too bad), but I just had one on Sunday so it’s fresh in my mind. And I love them so. 
individual hotpot
I’ve spent years of my life obsessed with hotpot (or steamboat) as the weather cools, and trying to convince my mother that the weather is cool enough, no really, to have a steamboat or two running in the house. After going vego, steamboat at home is still possible, but no longer do I find myself able to steamboat out and about due to the preponderance for good chicken stock in the soup. Beijing, though, is filled with hotpot restaurants of different varieties, and the cheapest, the most tackiest of chains, are so cheap they don’t put animal products in their soups – the cheapest of all are just water and salt and a piece of ginger and an inch of leek.  There’s Little Sheep, and Xiabu Xiabu, both just down the road from my house, where you can choose your soups spicy or not spicy; and at Little Sheep they give you popcorn when you enter (not vegan, maybe not vego) and make you pay extra for the sesame dipping sauce. 
delicious delicious luck
Most places I frequent you share the pot, which is fine when I tell my friends in advance that the pot will be filled only with tofu, vegetables, noodles and mushrooms. Inevitably, we’ll get to the end of the order, and the waitperson will look at me. 不要肉, I’ll say, don’t want meat, before they have a chance to ask.  I love a good hotpot, and it can be pretty easy, even if you’re in China and don’t speak Mandarin, because the menus are almost always big and glossy with pictures for every plate you can order, and there’s usually only one type of item on a plate – meat OR bok choy OR tofu, which makes it easy to get nothing but vego things. 

However there are things to be aware of, as a veg*n. There’ll be sauces floating around, for dipping – I’m not a big user of the sauces, but they’ll sometimes not necessarily be vego, they’ll be cut with something fish-based. A lot of places, especially fancy places, fill their soup with animal products, so you have to specifically ask if it’s water or stock in the pot.  When I return to Melbourne I have plans to start investigating as many steamboat restaurants as I can, to see if I have any options. I know that Enlightened Cuisine and Vegie Mum are both doing a steamboat for winter, which I look forward to trying  And if I don’t, I’m just going to have to buy one and start having 火锅 parties at my house. 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

home style restaurant food / 家常菜


The area near where I work has many Beijing homestyle restaurants, and I've developed a bit of a repertoire for dishes I'll hint that should be ordered when we go so that I can eat. Homestyle cooking (jiachangcai / 家常菜) is unsurprisingly easy to cook at home, but also a style quite favoured by little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and even some of the bigger ones.

Our usual restaurant doesn't have any English, and I'm actually not sure of its name, though I know it fairly well as we go there all the time. As a result this isn't so much a restaurant recommendation, but more of a things I eat because they're often vegan recommendation.



shredded potato


Shredded sour and spicy potatoes (算拉土豆丝) can be very sour and a little spicy, or very spicy and a little sour. I prefer a little sour and very spicy. This is a very dry dish, sometimes served with onion, and it's easy to go too far sour and too far spicy, but it's one of my favourites.



sour baicai


Okay I know you're going to notice a pattern, but sour and spicy cabbage (算拉白菜) is also pretty tasty. There is a whole lot of variation with this dish in the way it's prepared, unlike the potatoes, which are always shredded / 丝, but the result is always a slightly saucy, slightly sour or tart cabbage dish that goes really well with any of the spicier dishes you might have ordered.



gailan


Down the back of most menus, hidden away underneath and behind many other things, you might find something that reads suspiciously like cantonese vegetables / 广东菜. What they mean is gailan, and you can get them lightly wok-fried in soy sauce or with garlic or, if you're not careful, oyster sauce. I usually ask for them fried with garlic.



sadly not disanxian


Eggplant has been a really awesome experience for me in Beijing. Almost every restaurant will have some sort of eggplant speciality. My favourite is 地三鲜, literally 'three earth treasures', which is potato, eggplant and capsicum and it's so good. Pictured above is an eggplant, capsicum and tomato dish, because when I asked for 地三鲜 on Thursday they said they didn't have any, which given they then gave me this and a potato dish makes me wonder but whatever. The sauce is amazing, the eggplant just soaks it up and so does the potato and it's so delicious. Sometimes you need to check the eggplant dishes to make sure no animals were harmed in the making of them, but this one is usually okay.

You might notice the lack of tofu dishes! That's because there's no tofu dish I can guarantee you is vego, so it's best to make enquiries as you go. But I have a tofu dish recommendation post lined up for soon!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

making baozi

One of the things on my list of things to achieve while I'm living in Beijing is to improve my cooking repertoire. Last week I made tofu from dried organic soybeans, which was lots of fun and the result was some of the most delicious tofu I've ever eaten, plus a whole lot of inspiration for making my own tofu (and also adapting the technique to make vegan, gluten-free haloumi).



en-nommening


This week I made steamed buns!

We started with making the dough, which was (unsurprisingly) quite similar to making pizza dough. We gave it just the one rise, though if we'd had more time the teacher recommended a second proofing, before and after going to choppy town with a cleaver and making balls. (Cleaver optional)



choppy time


I was really interested to discover just how fast the dough dries out, and what a difference it makes both to my ability to finish making the bao, and also the final bao. It dries out very, very quickly, and the dough becomes very difficult to handle as you try to fold the shape and press in the filling at the same time.



almost there!


I became much faster and better at this even after just a handful of baozi, though my skills in this area still have far to go!

We used a smoked tofu, bok choy and shitake filling for these baozi, and it was delicious! I wish I hadn't been feeling a little below average, because I would have loved to have eaten more. There was also a bit of sesame oil in these ones because my cooking teacher, who is also a nutritionist, insisted, due to the lack of animal fats in my diet. It's okay the reason, because it was definitely a tasty filling.





Unlike the tofu, which I will make again but not until I get home and can impress my fellow vegmel bloggers with how awesome freshly made that hour tofu is at a potluck, I plan to make bao often both here and at home, just as soon as I can get some yeast!