Sunday, February 25, 2007

New Blogger in Town (Me)

Now that I've retired and have more time to indulge in my truest passions, Shanghai and Shanghainese small eats, I've decided to focus on this fetish in a new website,
I'm about to set out on another month-long trip to Shanghai, hopefully in better shape and with a better Internet connection than last time, and will be posting directly to the front-end blog for Shanghai Bites.

I won't be neglecting, though. My obsession with global Chinese food and hyphenated Chinese food is as great as my obsession with its Shanghainese bites subset, it's just harder to get my arms around it. After all, I'll be spending only a small percentage of my pasturage years in Shanghai, and the Shanghainese aren't the only Chinese with small eats. In San Francisco I live in walking distance of scores of Cantonese walk-away small eats (read dim sum) establishments as well as sit-down Cantonese restaurants, compared to zero Shanghainese joints, and wherever I go in North America, I'm always within an eggroll's throw of an American-Chinese, Canadian-Chinese, or Mexican-Chinese joint, each with its own fascination.

Drop in on Shanghai Bites, esepecially when I'm travelling, and wish me luck!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Weird Meat: Bourdain's got nothin' on Michael Ohlsson

In searching for a particular dish I wanted to try in Shanghai (I'll leave it to you to guess), I stumbled across Weird Meat, a blog by reformed vegan Michael Ohlsson. It's such a gem I can't believe it hasn't come to my attention before. Michael's a former San Franciscan, a current Shanghai resident and looks a mensch, so I'll forgive him for dissing Shanghai cuisine generally (though he liked the vertical pork bone).

Despite the title, Michael's blog is not meant to shock or tittilate, certainly less so than the posturing of Bourdain (which Ohlsson gently twits for wussiness in one post) occasionally becomes; it is a sober-sided and truly intrepid expedition in food anthropology, even accompanied by reading lists. Although the blogger's travels have taken him all over Asia and elsewhere, his his most fruitful (weird meatful?) hunting ground is Chain, and it includes the fare served at some of Shanghai's most popular restaurants.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The "Wok Wiz" and the Tea Wiz

Red Blossom Tea, in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, is one of my favorite little corners of the Universe. It's where I go in San Francisco to sample good tea, buy my precious Longjing tea, or just swap Chinese restaurant gossip. It's the product of a makeover of a generations-old tea, ginseng and herbal medicine shop. While the senior Luongs still dispense ginseng and other potions (including Wolfberries, or Goji Berries, a "superfood" just now hitting the pop charts), young sprouts Peter and Alice Luong dispense knowledge and love of fine tea in an attractive modern space.

If you've come to San Francisco Chinatown to learn about Chinese food, you may have taken one of the "Wok Wiz" tours, and if you lucked out, got the "Wok Wiz" herself, Shirley Fong-Torres (sister of journalist Ben) as a leader. She's made the tea shop a regular stop on her tour and on Sunday I happened be there seeking refuge from the noisy street festival outside when Shirley and her tour group showed up, and snapped the above picture. That's Shirley on the left, and Alice Luong on the right.

Fortune Cookies going to the dogs...

The late muckraking journalist Paul Jacobs once ate from a tin of dog food on live TV, to illustrate a point: the labeling requirements for pet food are more stringent than for people food.

What has this to do with fortune cookies for dogs? Well, they do exist, Virginia, and I spotted them at Cost Plus World Market. Intriguingly, they are advertised as being chicken-liver flavored and therefore are most likely far more tasty than the stale vanilla-flavor variety I sometimes get at the end of a Chinese meal. I have no idea what fortunes are inside the cookies, but the next time I run across a dog that's just finished a Chinese meal I'll ask.

What precedes the fortune cookie reward for eating all your doggie veggies most likely is served in one a dish like the one at the right (they come in two sizes). These strike me as having a purpose in life. Was your last takeout or delivery Chinese food unfit for human consumption? Put it in front of Fido. Was some offal dish from that authentic Sichuan restaurant just too, well, awful? Fido will lap it up. Hmm..... that makes me wonder if.... never mind.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Offal Truth about Sichuan Home Cooking

On the website I recently added a new feature, "Nasty Bits, Sichuan Style" which is a left-handed tribute of sorts to Anthony Bourdain, who sometimes seems to have invented the eating of offal. It features "Nasty Bits Recipe of the Month", such as "Home-Cooked Ox Penis", the inaugural selection for January. Admittedly, I created the feature to titillate and perhaps draw a few eyeballs to the site, as much as to tweak the self-assured A. B. a little. But there is nothing sensationalized about the source of my recipes, it's a little book called "Home-cooked Sichuan Cuisine" published in China. The recipes, therefore, are presumed to represent a cross-section of dishes served in Sichuan homes. The entire list of recipes in the book is presented below, and perusing it may

a) impress upon you the waste-not-want-not sense of economy of China's cooking and eating culture,

b) give you food for thought about "authenticity" and whether you REALLY want to find it in a Chinese restaurant, or

c) make your mouth water.

  • Stir-fried Preserved Ham with Celery and Pot-Stewed Tofu
  • Stir-Fried Shredded Pork and Green Pepper
  • Steamed Streaky Pork and Taro
  • Pickled Pigtails with Wild Chilli Pepper
  • Stir-fried Meat Stuffed Egg Rolls in Fish Flavor
  • Fried Steamed Streaky Pork
  • Stir-fried Preserved Ham with Pickled Cowpea
  • Steamed Upper Part of a Leg of Pork
  • Sichuan Sausage
  • Home Cooking Style Shredded Pork
  • Shredded Pork with Sweet Brown Sauce
  • Stir-fried Pork Liver with Pickled Chilli
  • Steamed Streaky Pork with Rice Flour
  • Fried Streaky Pork Stuffed Bean Curd Sheet Rolls
  • Steamed Pork Spare Ribs with Rice Flour
  • Stir-fried Preserved Ham and Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb
  • Stir-fried Preserved Ham of Home town with Garlic Bolt
  • Pork Large Intestine in Casserole
  • Dong-Po Pork in Bamboo Canister
  • Rice Crust and Pork in Luzhou Mellow Wine Flavor
  • Dry-stewed Pork Balls
  • Dry-braised Upper Part of a Leg of Pork
  • Steamed Pork Spare Ribs in Little Bamboo Cage
  • Dry-stewed Pork Tripe with Pickled Radish
  • Steamed Pork Spare Ribs with Glutinous Rice
  • Golden Pork Large Intestine with Crisp Skin
  • Dry-stewed Pork Large Intestine with Mushroom and Fermented Bean Curd
  • Hot and Spicy Stir-Fried Pig Uterus
  • Home-cooked Pork Tripe
  • Hot and Sour Tendon
  • Stir-fried Pork Kidney
  • Home-Cooked Tendon
  • Dry-Stewed Tendon
  • Stewed Pig’s Brains and Minced Pork
  • Stir-Fried Tender Ginger and Shredded Pork
  • Stewed Streaky Pork and Sweet Potatoes
  • Boiled Mushroom Sprout and Fat Beef in Chafing Dish
  • Dry-Stewed Oxtails with Garlic
  • Sichuan Style Fat Beef Rolls on Hot Iron Plate
  • Stir-Fried Mutton with Sweet Brown Sauce
  • Hot and Spicy Fried Rabbit’s Head
  • Dry-stewed Dog’s Meat with Pickled Radish
  • Home-cooked Ox Penis
  • Stir-fried Eggplants with Mashed Pork in Fish Flavor

If you answered c) to the above, you are either Anthony Bourdain, an Anthony Bourdain wannabe, the person who A.B. is striving to become, or a Chengdu homie.