Tag Archives: chinese

A kitchen in January, mindful eating, a recipe for steamed egg custard

New Years Eve

January began with a quiet evening among friends, with blini, pizza bites, haloumi salad, ratatouille, and an Aussie barbecue, welcoming the new year. Do you like the view from our borrowed party pad? 🙂

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Markets

January is a time to restock after the Christmas holidays. Saturday morning, I went to the Eveleigh Markets followed by Paddy’s Markets in Chinatown. Here is part of the morning’s bounty. And, if you want a peek into other people’s kitchens, please visit the “In My Kitchen” posts hosted by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

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Cookbooks

January is a time to dive into cookbooks (that I bought, ie, non-sponsored), three in particular.

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Rice wine at the Mid-Autumn Festival

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19 September was the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Moon Festival. Beyond moon cakes, it is also a story of a woman who flew to the moon, a time for toasting a new full moon, and for me, a reason to taste good quality rice wine.

Ecstatic wine

The moon and (rice) wine is a pair that inspires countless poems in classical China. Imbibing wine until lightly inebriated, the poets recite poems or improvise lines of poetry and admires the beauty of a perfect new (round) moon. The poets thought wine helped their mind to hold – to possess – lyrical plays of words and turns of phrase. In that ‘enhanced’ state of mind, they repeat and elaborate on particularly beautiful phrases or words, much as one may savour the aroma and palate of a well-aged wine. A group of eight famous poets in the Tang Dynasty are still known as immortals in the wine cup.

One of the ‘eight immortals’ is Li Bai, who wrote many poems that involve drinking wine. A well known one is about the poet drinking alone, in a moon-lit garden. Unusually, he is not drinking in the company of fellow poets. Instead, he turns to the moon and his shadow as drinking companions, turning one person into three. He raises his earthenware cup to the moon, and then dances (presumably poetically), although the moon and his shadow cannot join his drinking or dancing.

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In that poem, wine prompts him to use his imagination to create his own social drinking circle. He and wine, worshipping the moon in his inimitable fashion.

The image of Li Bai (or his alter ego) dancing alone in the garden, with lines of poetry swirling in his head, and inviting the moon to join the fun, might be an early form of moon dance. It always makes me think of Coleridge in his wilder moments: “And all should cry, Beware! Beware! / His flashing eyes, his floating hair! […] For he on honey-drew hath fed / And drunk the milk of paradise.” (Kubla Khan)

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Nostalgic wine

Wine and the moon also have another, more nostalgic place in tradition.

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Marvellous marbled tea eggs

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Cooking is a funny thing. Sometimes, you slave over a stove for hours, and the masterpiece is eaten in 5 minutes with a ‘that’s nice’. Other times, a minimum of effort creates seriously impressive results.

I like dishes that fall into the second category.

Cue Chinese tea eggs, also known as marbled eggs.

We served this at the start of our Chinese new year feast. They were snapped up like that. Quite a few guests talked about these eggs til the end of dinner, and a couple of them still talked about it when I saw them a couple of weeks later.

Tea eggs, and the momofuku pork buns, were the most popular parts of dinner (the boca negra was a close runner up). Tea eggs were also the easiest thing I made for that dinner, requiring little active time, and being almost fool proof.

The basic idea is to take soft boiled eggs, crack the egg shell (but not to peel the egg), and boil it for a couple more hours in an aromatic mixture of black tea, soy, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, dried mandarin peel and peppercorns.

And that’s it!

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The coloured cooking liquid seeps through the cracks in the egg shell and creates the lovely marbled pattern. The eggs can also be left in the cooking liquid for a few more days. The longer the eggs sit in the liquid, the darker the marbled patterns become. The flavours also seep in, so that a plain boiled egg is transformed into a tasty savoury snack, and a thing of beauty.

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Bánh mì, for you and me (2)

This was going to be a short, straightforward post about the red braised pork belly that we had in our DIY bánh mì. How we stuffed the pork belly, and Vietnamese luncheon meat (but of course) into baguettes (richly slathered with pork liver pâté and home made mayonnaise), added carrot and daikon pickles, cucumbers, sprigs of coriander and shallots, topped with dipping sauce, and munched our way to bánh mì bliss. Cue photo of pork belly on Asian-esque melamine plate. Usual food blogger stuff.

Then, I read the recipe again, and started wondering.** (If you want to skip to the recipe, it’s at the end of the post.)

** A wandering mind – this is a sign that I have been away from university for too long. My mind didn’t wander much when I was doing a part time Masters while working full time, it was too busy figuring out how little research I could get away with for that 10,000 word essay.

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