Asia

42. China Part 3: Shanghai: Sweet and Sour Sticky Ribs

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Shanghai is most eastern and also biggest (25 million, and yes you read that right) and richest city in China.  The funniest part is that Shanghai we know today didn’t exist 25 years ago it was just farmland! It just sort of magically appeared over the course of just a few years. Is Shanghai done growing? NO I don’t think it is ever done and it is changing and growing so ridiculously fast. Is there anything left of the old Shanghai? Luckily yes! Shouning Road is a great example, the old China, walk down the street look in any direction and there is something to eat.

Shanghai

Things you didn’t know about Shanghai:

  • When you get out of the elevator in the Shanghai Municipal Marriage Service Center to get married, the first thing you see is a sign with three arrows that says “Marriage (Turn Right),” “Adoption (Turn Left),” and “Divorce (Straight Ahead).”
  • Internet rumors once raged that Shanghai’s public toilets brought in more than €10 million a year.
  • The total area of Shanghai was 636 square kilometers in 1949. It is now 6,340 square kilomenters.
  • Each weekend, hundreds of Shanghai parents come to the People’s Square marriage market to look for suitable mates for their children.
  • Locals in Shanghai tend to drink everything warm or at room temperature, including water and beer. If you want either served cold, you’ll need to ask for it that way.

So my brother adored these ribs so much that he asked me the next day already when we were going to eat them again! This is what you would call MANFOOD, delicious, rich, greasy. YUM! This might be my best dish yet!

Sticky Ribs

Ingredients: 2 lbs pork ribs (raw unmarinated), 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, divided, 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine, divided, 3 tablespoons oil, divided, 8 thin slices of ginger, 4 scallions (white parts only), chopped, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon dark Chinese vinegar, 2 cups water, toasted sesame seeds

Clean the ribs and pat them dry with a paper towel. Marinate the ribs with 1 tablespoon light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a flat bottomed pan over medium heat and brown the ribs on all sides. Set aside on a plate.

Heat another tablespoon of oil in a clean wok over medium heat, and cook the ginger and scallions until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Take them out of the wok and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil, and with the wok on low heat, add the sugar. Stir and let it melt. Add the ribs and coat them with the melted sugar. Turn off the heat.

Add the second tablespoon of shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, vinegar, water, and the cooked ginger and scallion. Turn up the heat and bring everything to a boil. Then cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. After 30 minutes, if there’s still too much liquid in the pot, take off the lid and turn up the heat, stirring continuously until the sauce has thickened and the ribs are coated and sticky.

It’s best to serve these ribs at room temperature. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds if desired.

41. China Part 2: Sichuan: Kung Pao Chicken

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Sichuan is a province in the West of China, known for its spicy kitchen (chili heaven!), fertile land and off course giant panda’s. The landscape is very diverse, with Qinghai-Tibetan plateau in the West, Sichuan Basin in the middle (basically farm land), and Hilly Region in the East. Large mountains with turbulent rivers and deep valley’s crossing through.

Sichuan

Things you didn’t know about Sichuan

  • It is also known as land of abundance since ancient times.
  • The population is 90 million, which makes it the fourth most populated province in China. (90 million!!! That is like quadruple the people who live in the Netherlands, and that in 1 province!!!)
  • Have I mentioned the GIGANTIC SIZE of the province you can compare it to 12x Switzerland!
  • Wildlife to be found in Sichuan: Giant Panda’s, Sichuan Golden Monkey’s, Takin (I never heard of a Takin I actually had to google it!)

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I love spicy food, the Sichuan pepper I only discovered a few year ago. It has a really distinctive taste, it sort of numbs your tongue or something it is really hard to explain. I think it tastes great though. Seriously go easy on the salt in this recipe!

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40. China Part 1: Hong Kong: Dim Sum

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China is simply too big to choose 1 dish, it would be cruel to choose 1 dish while China has sooo many good dishes! So I split China up in 4 parts. And I know there are 8 culinary regions in China I will start with Hong Kong!

Soooo Hong Kong… Hong Kong is the most western orientated province in China. Officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China but that doesn’t fit on passports or official documents so let’s just keep it casual and call it Hong Kong! When people think about Hong Kong they think about: growing Chinese economy, THE foodiecity in Asia, skyscrapers, expensive hotels,… but what they seem to forget is that Hong Kong has been around for a while (5000 years). So how did Hong Kong become so businesslike? Well after the first opium war (1839-1842) the British took control of Hong Kong. That way it became sort of a European city in Asia! Only in 1997 Hong Kong became a part of China! The city became China’s first Special Administrative Region on 1 July 1997 under the principle of “one country, two systems”.

Hong KongHere are some things you didn’t know about Hong Kong:

  • Hungry? Hong Kong is home to around 11,000 restaurants – almost one for every 680 residents – In fact, there are so many eateries that you could dine at a different restaurant every night for the next 30 years.
  • Fire up your Rolls-Royce. It’s said that Hong Kong boasts more Rolls-Royces per capita than anywhere else in the world.
  • Vertical horizons. To match its thick population density, Hong Kong boasts the highest number of skyscrapers in the world by far.
  •  The fragrant harbour. Oh the irony. Hong Kong actually translates as “fragrant harbour”.

Hong Kong food or Cantonese food is enjoyed all over the world  and is closest to the flavor of Chinese takeaway food. It is the sweetest and is the most similar to the Western palate. This week I made dim sum. I love dim sum and I have been looking forward to this for a while now! My mom always has a plater of dim sum in the freezer just in case we have guests, but my brother, sister and I often eat them for lunch or a quick snack. Which she doesn’t make a fuss about because it’s pretty healthy, at least better then devouring a bag of chips. This particular type of dim sum is called siu mai. I didn’t get the shape right because my wonton sheets were round instead of square, but honestly they were delicious! I had never tasted the homemade ones because even restaurants buy them most of the time but you do actually taste the difference.

Dim SumIngredients: 150gr of king prawns, 150 gr of pork mince, 1 clove of garlic, minced, 1 chunk of ginger, grated, 1 spring onion, 2 water chestnuts, 1 tbsp roasted chopped peanuts, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 tsp cornflour, 20 wonton wrappers, sweet chili sauce (for dipping), 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 red chilli, 1 spring onion

Chuck the prawns, mince, garlic, ginger, spring onion, soy sauce, sesame oil,red chili,  cornflour into a food processor and pulse into a rough paste. Chop the water chestnuts and roasted peanuts as finely as possible and mix into the paste. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and cover it with clingfilm. Leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Lay out the wonton wrappers on a surface and place a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into the middle of each wrapper. Fold the edges up of the wrappers up around the mixture, leaving a hole in the top (brush the pastry with water if it struggles to stick). Cut away any excess wrapper. Boil a little water in a wok or saucepan. Sit your steamer over the water (You could also use a sieve over a deep saucepan). Place a square of greaseproof paper into the steamer and add the dumplings. Put the lid on the steamer and cook for 10 minutes.

 

32. Cambodia: Pork and Rice Soup

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Welcome C! I can’t believe it we have been through al the countries with an A and a B time has flown by and I have learned so much already about cooking and about the world. I have to admit it makes me little proud that it’s been going so well! Thanks to all of you! So later this week I promise I will bake a nice big cake and add the recipe :D.

But now Cambodia, when I started googling Cambodia pictures of hidden temples and statues in the rainforest came up. It reminded me a little of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. But apparently that was filmed in Sri Lanka (I get distracted very easily, I have the attention span of a goldfish, it’s disturbing, we call it sdbing = studydodgingbehaviour). Cambodia seems to be known for it’s deep blue seawater, enchanting rainforests, fairytale like mangroves, great food, majestic temples, and happy people. So what else it there about Cambodia that your probably don’t know:

  • Tarantula kebabs are a popular delicacy in Cambodia.
  • Cambodia is the most unexplored country in Southeast Asia. Here tourist can really dive into the life of ancient Asia. Even today, in Cambodia it is possible to meet a person who has never watched TV.
  • The most common myths about Cambodia: There is a war, it is very dangerous here, everyone walking around with guns, kill people, hunger, poverty and unrest.
    In fact, Cambodia is certainly not a rich country, but it is so fertile that no one is starving here. The war ended 30 years ago.
  • Cambodians love to sleep outside in the hammocks.

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I love South East Asian food, it’s so light and healthy. This week I made Pork and Rice Soup! It was great, when I put the pan on the table my brother mentioned it looked like glue! But it’s sooo yummy, a great budget midnight meal!

Pork and Rice Soup
Pork and Rice Soup

Ingredients Marinate pork: 200 gram ground pork, 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce, 2 teaspoon sugar

Ingredients Broth: 9 cups of water, 2 stalks of lemongrass (cracked), thumb size piece of ginger peeled and smashed, 4 flat anchovies (packed in oil), salt to taste, 3/4 cup of jasmine rice (rinsed in cold water and drained), 2 table spoons of peanut oil, 5 cloves of garlic,

Ingredients Toppings: 1/4 cup of Thai fish sauce, 1 bird chile (chopped), 4 shallots (peeled and diced), 2 cups of beansprouts, 1 bunch of scallions thinly sliced, 1/2 roasted unsalted peanuts, 1 lime, salt and pepper

In a small bowl stir the pork with fish sauce and sugar. Set aside. Place water, ginger, lemongrass, salt and dried shrimp (if using) in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Boil steadily for 5 minutes. Add rinsed rice to the pot. When it returns to a boil, lower heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. While the rice is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until tender and golden, about 3 minutes, Regulate the heat so they don’t burn. Transfer shallots to a condiment bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet and toss in the garlic and anchovies (if using) Stir-fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the pork and cook, stirring and breaking up any lumps, until the pork is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add the pork stir-fry to the soup pot, once the rice has finished cooking. Stir through. Season with salt, to taste. Mix the bird chile with ¼ cup fish sauce in a small condiment bowl. Set aside. Just before serving, gently reheat the soup. Divide the shredded cabbage or sprouts among the bowls. Add a pinch of shredded basil and a pinch of scallions to each bowl. Ladle the soup on top. Add a bit of each topping and a generous grinding of black pepper to each bowl. Serve with a lime wedges and prik nam pla on the side. Enjoy!

I found some Cambodian popmusic this videoclip is definatelly worth watching, i don’t think you can find anything more dorky on the entire internet, but it’s hilarious. If you know the lyrics you can even sing along!

28. Brunei: Curry with aromatic rice

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If you ask someone to point Brunei Darussalam on the world map, most likely the person will get stumped and struggle! No wonder as this country is one of the smallest nations on earth that is located on the island of Borneo in South East Asia. Besides sharing its border with the state of Sarawak, Malaysia, it also faces the South China Sea in the North. Brunei’s economy is based on natural gas and oil. Luckily nature doesn’t suffer to much, there are still many beautiful rain forests to be found in Brunei. The main religion practiced in the country is Islam and Sharia laws are strictly adhered to.

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Here are facts about Brunei:

  • Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is well known for being a keen collector of cars. Once the sultan had more than 530 Mercedes-Benzes, 500 Rolls-Royces and 360 Ferraris in his car collection.
  • Table manners include eating and passing food with right hand only with the exception that while holding a heavy plate with a right hand, the left one can be used to support the right wrist
  • Pointing the index finger while in conversation is considered to be rude, instead using thumb to point is encouraged.
  • The 600 years old Sultanate of Brunei is the oldest Muslim dynasty in the region.

This curry has no specific name but I apparently it is very typical in Brunei, and so tasty!

brunei curry

Ingredients curry: 1 stick of sereh (lemongrass),  hand full of chopped coriander, 1 chili deseed and roughly chopped, thumb size piece of ginger roughly chopped, 1 large white onion roughly chopped, 2 cloves of garlic, zest en juice of 1 lime, stewing beef, 1 can (400ml) coconut milk, canola oil, turmeric to taste, 

Ingredients aromatic rice: 1 cup of rice, cinnamon stick, 4 cardemon pods. 

Put the sereh stick, coriander, chili, ginger, onion, garlic lime zest and juice in the blender and blend until it’s a smooth paste. Brown the beef in big pan with the canola oil. Add the the curry paste and fry a a little more for about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk. Add bring to a boil. Then put in the oven 160 degrees C for about about an hour I let it sit a longer because I like my curry quite thick.

Ten minutes before serving you start the with the rice. Cook the rice as you normally would but add a stick of cinnamon and a stick of lemongrass.

Here is some Brunei music, it sounds really funny! Never heard anything like it 😛

23. Bhutan: Cucumbersalad

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Bhutan, a country surrounded by the enormous mountains of the Himalaya. Bhutan has always fascinated me, because it’s kind of closed off country, only a certain amount of tourists can visit Bhutan. They are the definition of a green country, they try so hard to keep the nature intact! For instance: Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements: At least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times. I think they are the perfect example to the rest of the world, we should all care more about the environment. I’m not saying that every country should implement a law like this, but we are not doing our utmost best to stop global warming.

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So here you go some more fun facts about Bhutan:

  • The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu. It is the only capital city in the world without traffic lights! When a test set was put in place residents complained because they were too impersonal; within days they were taken down and the traditional method – men in white gloves at either end of the main street – was reinstated.
  • In Bhutan, all citizens officially become one year older on New Year’s Day.
  • Bhutan is the only country in the world that absorbs more CO2 than it gives out. It is also the only country whose largest export is renewable energy, which is hydroelectric power.
  • Healthcare and education is free in Bhutan for both residents and visitors, despite it’s poverty.
  • Television and internet was banned in Bhutan until 1999. The internet was a gift to his subjects from King Jigme Singye to celebrate his Silver Jubilee in 2000.
  • All tourists have to travel with a tour operator and pay a minimum fee of $250 per day to visit Bhutan, making it both expensive and a giant pain for backpackers to visit.

This is such an odd yet amazing country! Off course some things are ridiculous, but free healthcare and education for EVERYONE! That is just amazing and admirable! As I said I think the rest of the world can learn a lot from Bhutan! And this not even half of the amazing things I found about Bhutan! Seriously there is so much more but I can’t write down everything because that would make this post crazy long and a bit unfair to the other countries! This recipe is super simple and is mainly used as side dish next to spicy stuff.

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Ingredients: 1 Cucumber, 1 green chili, 1 red onion, feta cheese, cilantro

Dice the onion, cucumber and feta. Take the seeds out of the chili and chop it fine as you can.  Sprinkle over cilantro. That’s it! Super healthy!

16. Bangladesh: Chicken Korma

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Bangladesh a country where the difference between rich and poor is incredibly large. Apart from that Bangladesh also has a lot of positive things.

Here are some things you didn’t know about Bangladesh:

  • The worlds largest beach is located in Bangladesh
  • It is immature to smile a lot. Hence the Bangladeshis tend not to smile much. (This would not be a country for me)
  • Women love to be as colorful and shiny as possible! It is their everyday life to wear colorful saree or saluar khamiz with matching shining earrings, necklaces, bracelets, make up and shoes. Yes, everyday! Whenever you step out your home, you need to look as good as possible, because others are looking at you, you know?
  • There are two typical questions that people ask each other every day:  “What did you eat? Did you take a shower?” Here everything is about eating! (I can relate to this, the first question my little brother used to ask in the morning was: Mom what’s for dinner tonight?) They eat a lot and in every meal there are lots of items on a table. And because it’s hot here, people sweat, so personal hygiene is very important.

I already love curry but this was extreme!

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Ingredients: 1 kg chicken pieces, washed, 2 large onions, finely chopped, 1 1/2 tbsps ginger garlic paste, 1 large tomato, chopped, 1 tsp red chilli pwd, 1/4 tsp turmeric pwd1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, salt to taste, 2-3 tbsps oil, chopped coriander leaves for garnish 

Dry roast: 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1″ cinnamon, 2 cardamoms, 5 tbsp grated fresh coconut, 8 cashew nuts, 1 tbsp roasted chickpeas

Roast: (in 2 tsps oil for 5 mts) 6-8 curry leaves, 8-10 shallots/sambar onions, 4 green chills, 3 tbsps chopped coriander leaves, 15 mint leaves

Make a paste of ingredients under ‘dry roast’ and ‘roast’ by adding a few tbsps of water and keep aside. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed vessel, add curry leaves and saute for few moments. Add the chopped onions and fry till transparent. Add ginger-garlic paste and saute for 3 mts. Add red chilli pwd, turmeric pwd and salt and combine. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for 4-5 mts. Add the ground paste and cook over medium heat for 7-8 mts. Add lemon juice and the chicken pieces and combine. Cook without lid for 5-6 mts. Add 3 cups of water and cook with lid on simmer till the chicken is tender and the gravy thickens. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Turn off heat. Serve with rice

 

13. Azerbaijan: Lamb stew with chestnuts and dried fruit

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My last country that starts with an A! 1 letter done 25 to go! Azerbaijan also referred  to as “The Land of Fire” mostly because their old religion used to consider fire as a holy element and also because of The Burning Mountain a rare natural wonder in the Absheron peninsula. It burns all year round due to natural gas escaping from the ground. And with burn I mean flames! It should be spectacular sight!

  • There are 8,350 rivers in Azerbaijan, and all of them drain into the Caspian Sea
  • There main income is oils, they have a LOT of oil
  • SELFIE UTOPIA! Azeri people love taking pictures of themselves and love when you take pictures of them, especially men! But if you would like to take a picture of for instance an oilfield of a police officer of even his car that’s big NO GO!
  • Azerbaijan is a country of watermelons. But there is something very specific about they way  you eat watermelon there. Always with a white cheese and bread. And no this is not a typo

Over to the recipe. This week I made a lamb stew with chestnuts and dried fruit. It was really really good! Real comfort food. Tis recipe is for 4. The onions and the apricots make this dish really sweet. So best not to combine with a sweet wine to overcome it being too sweet.

Lamb stew with chestnuts and dried fruit
Lamb stew with chestnuts and dried fruit

Ingredients: 500g of lamb meat (lamb shoulder of the bone), 4 big white onions, 1 large tablespoon of all spice  a handful of canned chestnuts, a handful of dried apricots, a handful of raisins, a few threads of safran, 1 spoon of turmeric, salt/pepper/, juice of 1 lemon, butter or any cooking oil other than olive oil

Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse. Chop the lamb into bite-sized chunks. Place in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Remove the foam that forms on top, then add the all spice. When the meat is soft, remove from the water. Keep the water you cooked the meat in! Pour boiling water onto the dried fruit and let is soak for 3-4 minutes and drain. Brown the softened meat in melted butter of oil (anything but olive oil) Cut the the onions in rings and fry them in butter. Add the meat and stir. Add the chestnuts, dried fruit, turmeric, and salt and peper to the meat and fry  for 3-4. Add a ladle of the bouillon from the meat, the saffron infusion and the lemon juice. Let it simmer for about an hour. Serve with rice

10. Armenia: Taboulleh Salad

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Armenia, a country with a history like no other. In the golden age Armenia was powerful ally or if you had them against you a feared enemy. Being on the paths of trade and war gave Armenia a unique position, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a not so good way. They were under a constant thread of attack. but neither Alexander the Great nor any of the other great conquerers could fully suppress the brave inhabitants of Armenia. Later in history Armenia got caught between Rome and it’s enemy Persia, each would use as a buffer against it’s rival. Great cities were laid waste. Like the Greek and the Romans the Armenians had their own ancient gods but merchants traveling to the great centers of trade in the Middle East came in to contact with a new idea, a faith that would shape the identity of their country. By 301 AD Armenia had been the first to adopt Christianity as it’s official religion. A century later they were forced by the Persian empire to adopt their old religion  Zoroastrianism. The rich elite were furious and they started a riot which became a civil war and Armenia’s first challenge as a Christian country. Eventually they made a truce and allowed freedom the Armenians freedom of religion. But yet another invasion was lurking around the corner the Ottoman Empire. In the beginning they kept the freedom of religion, a few years later they started treating minorities like Christian and jews differently. Christians and Jews were not allowed to join the army or even own a weapon, they raised taxes, and their word was not admissible in court which basically ended in a massacre where the minorities where prohibited from using arms. And don’t even get me started on the Second World War. At some point in history Yerevan the capital of Armenia changed hands 14 times in 2 centuries. The official language is Armenian. Because of all the moving around, changing borders and empires a lot of Armenian moved out of the country which is why there are only 3 million in Armenia but in total there are more then 11 million Armenians. There is of course  a lot more to tell about Armenia but I think  this is enough for now! Let’s get cookin’!

Taboulleh Salad

I made a taboulleh salad! I wanted to make something healthy which would accompany the BBQ my mom prepared and to be honest it was perfect! And it’s really really really simple! But it does require some prep-time.

Ingredients: 2 cups of bulgur, 4 diced tomatoes, 1 cucumber diced, 2 cups of fresh chopped mint, 3 cups of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley, 4 sliced spring onions, juice of 1 lemon, pinch of salt, 3 cups of water. 

Let the bulgur well in the water for about 1 1/2 hour. In the meanwhile you can chop everything and put it all in a bowl. Make sure the bulgur is soft, and add to the bowl.

While preparing I listened to a really relaxing armenian playlist I found on 8tracks! http://8tracks.com/kiranb_84/armenians, seriously it’s really relaxing oh yeah and did I forget to mention that one of the best musicians of all time is from Armenia! Charles Aznavour, for the people who don’t know who this is he is the singer of the song at the beginning of  the Nottinghill movie and for the people who still don’t know! You should be ashamed of yourself and listen to it right now! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxaZMreym88