Monday, December 26, 2011

chinese cooking classes


I took 2 cooking classes in Shanghai, both learning some dim sum dishes. The first class we learned to make fried buns filled with pork. We made the dough from scratch and let me tell you these little suckers were tricky to fold properly…




I was kinda ticked when she just flipped them over into the frying pan and you didn’t even see the painstaking folds…



They were pretty good though.

The spring rolls were much easier to fold and better than any restaurant spring roll I’ve ever had…


The best part of the class was that we got to eat our food afterwards. Actually, the best part was the teacher who spoke about 3 words of English and had the best laugh ever. She was a hoot…


In our next class we learned to make steamed shrimp rolls in a myriad of shapes…






I was thrilled to find out what the dough of the steamed rolls are made out of – cornstarch and water. That's it. Interesting, huh?

We then made pot stickers which were very similar to the fried buns except no baking powder in the dough so they weren’t as puffy. Also, the fold was much easier and I could crank them out like a machine…




These were by far the best tasting thing we made. We were mighty proud and ate about a million of them.

It was a fun way to spend an afternoon with the girls and made me miss having a kitchen all the more!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

night market food challenge!!

Did you think I was going to forget about our night market food challenge?? Well, I almost did! The last couple of weeks of a round are always crazy and I seriously almost forgot that I left you hanging!

So, without further ado…


After we ate our delicious Peking duck in Beijing, we headed a couple of blocks over to the night market. This place is full of just about anything you’d never want to imagine skewered and ready to be fried or grilled for you to eat.


Sheep penis, anyone?  No, we didn’t eat that!!

Only one other guy was as brave as Julie and me and we all felt fine the next day. Stomachs of steel, people. Stomachs of steel.

We started off with the seahorses…



I think Jules was trying to swallow it whole!

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I know most people think they’re cute, but those weirdo looking ones at the Georgia Aquarium have made me think they are more strange than cute, so I had no real issue eating this one. It was salty, a little crunchy and a little chewy. All in all- not horrible.

From the same stall we chose giant grasshoppers…



Attempting to mask sheer terror with fake smile in 3…2…1…

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Okay, this one was tough. I know it is hard to see under the chili and garlic sauce, but that is one really big bug. I had a total girly freak-out trying to get it in my mouth…

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Once in, it wasn’t much better. It was so big and crunching its body, wings and little legs was a bit more than I had bargained for. The taste and texture was like a dry, crispy grass. I guess you are what you eat. Or where you live. What do grasshoppers eat? Anyway, those little legs and wings were tough to get rid of.  Mouths full of grasshopper…


Thank God, Julie found a guy selling beer so we had something to wash them down with.

Next up was the silk worms…



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Looking at these things was hard enough, but when we decided to eat them I was pretty worried. Our Chinese friend, C, told us she has eaten before and not to be scared. “Just don’t eat the black thing inside.” I don’t know if the black thing is the actual worm or its excrement or what, but the last thing you want to do when trying to choke down a creepy crawly is worry about eating around something. Julie said it tasted like tofu gone bad, but I thought the taste was okay. It was creamy and bland. The outer part was fairly inedible though. It was like the outside of a corn kernel. I’d say this worm was slightly better than that dried one we ate in South Africa.

Then came the scorpions…




he was scary!!

Jules and I went with a skewer of the smaller ones and our friend got a big black one. The big black one was some kind of scary. I ate his tail. Take that, Mr. Scorpion…

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Jules said the shell of the big one was like crunching on seashells…


I’m sure you’re not going to believe me, but the small scorpions were delicious. Really. I swear if someone brought me a skewer of them right now I would eat them with no hesitation. No joke. If you like a snack that is crunchy and salty, you’d like them too.

We then ate the worst tasting thing of the night, the centipede...




At this point in the night I wasn’t really scared to eat it, but it tasted like ammonia. Maybe it had gone bad. How were we to know if we were being served a spoiled centipede? Just know if you are ever trapped somewhere starving- eat all the other bugs first before the centipede.

We ended the night with a starfish…



Not scary at all and after the centipede, which the wife took a huge bite of and I had only had a small taste thanks to her warning, it was the only thing we could stomach.

It tasted like the sea. And the beach. It was very gritty inside like eating a mouth full of sand…


The other wives tried this one and I was very proud! Way to be, girls!!

So there it is, our crazy night market challenge. It was fun and a little insane and yes I made us use the disposable toothbrush from the hotel that night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Korean BBQ

Cynthia from Eating in Neverland asked if I could do a post on Korean BBQ because although she has a few restaurants near her, she’s unsure of what to order or how to eat it once it arrives.  I feel you, Cynthia.  There were so many cuisines I shied away from back home because I was intimidated by the unknown factor.  I love new foods, new textures,  new flavors, and new dining experiences so, I’m really grateful that our travels have taken away the option of  opting out. Many times on the road we either figure it out or simply don’t eat. And for those who know me, that second option isn’t an option for me.

I’m going to say I officially fell in love with Korean bbq last year in Japan, although our favorite restaurant while living in Greece in 2009 was also a Korean joint.  Although the bulgogi (marinated beef) was really good, I think we were mainly drawn there because it wasn’t yet another taverna.  Mainland Greek food gets really old, really fast. I digress.

I’ve found when you walk into an ethnic restaurant and you look like you don’t have a clue, the staff is usually more than happy to help you out.  People love to share their culture and a huge part of anyone’s culture is their food- so don’t be afraid to walk in and say “I’ve always wanted to try this, so can you help me order the best dishes?”  I've never had anyone steer me in the wrong direction.

So, I’m obviously no expert, and I can’t begin to tell you about all the other dishes they offer (except bulgogi- really delish marinated beef you can eat with rice) but if you want the Korean bbq experience, this is pretty much what we’ve run into, whether it be in Korea, Japan, Australia or the UK…

The menu is probably going to have pictures and pictures are always helpful.  For the bbq, you’re going to find a myriad of beef and/or pork cuts to grill at your table on an electric or charcoal little grill.  If they have a mixed platter, that may be how you want to go the first time so you can figure out what cuts you like best.  Our faves are the ribs, which are cut off the bone, marbled sirloin and the pork.  The pork usually looks like a huge, thick slab of bacon…


Whichever cuts you choose, it is going to come with lettuce leaves, miso paste, sesame oil, bean sprouts, maybe some peanuts, maybe some peppers, maybe some garlic and always kimchi (pickled spicy cabbage).   When we were in Korea we were also given an omelet, soup, tofu, onions and mushrooms for the grill and a new sauce that the lady instructed us to dip certain meats in. I think it just depends on the restaurant. If it doesn’t come with rice I’d recommend ordering some.

Okay, so now you’ve got your table full of little dishes and meat.  They’ll get the grill fired up for you and sometimes even cook it for you-especially if they think you can’t be trusted Winking smile .  Either way, they’ll give you tongs to grill the meat and scissors to cut it into pieces.  Jules always want to control the grilling and I’m more than happy to nosh on sprouts and kimchi (oh, kimchi- how I heart thee!) while she’s cooking…



The meat is thin and only takes a few minutes, so while it’s cooking you can prepare your lettuce wrap.  If I’m hungry I’m going to put a little rice in the wrap just to make it more substantial.  Then I add a lot of miso (it’s the salty component, the meat isn’t seasoned so you’re going to want to use at least a little- being from the South, I used a lot), some sprouts and whatever else may be on the table.  When the meat is ready I dip it in my sesame oil or you can just add a little to your rice and then pop the meat into the wrap…


Roll it all up like a burrito and voilĂ - you’re eating Korean bbq!

If you want you can add the kimchi, I just love the flavor on its own so much I usually just eat it in-between wraps.  (If you like spicy foods, you’re going to love kimchi.  It is extremely good for you too! ) I’ll also just dip the meat in miso and sesame and eat with rice when I’m tired of the assembly or if it’s a really good cut of meat.

Cynthia- I hope you found this helpful and I hope to hear about your first foray into Korean bbq soon! 

Atlanta friends- get ready to attend Korean bbq dinners as soon as we have a kitchen again!! I’ve already bought the Korean chopsticks and I’m seriously going to be making my own kimchi…


even if Jules says she’s not thrilled about me burying and fermenting food in the backyard.