Cucumber Craziness 

Whilst I’m at it, I might as well share some of my favourite cucumber recipes. So far, I can offer Chinese 拍黄瓜 (2 versions), Taiwanese 凉拌黄瓜 (pictures to follow)and Korean pickled cucumber 오이나물, all of which make for great cold starters or side dishes.

Chinese cucumber I:

拍黄瓜literally means beaten/smashed cucumber, and that is exactly what you do.

Ready to get rid of some pent-up anger? Need to relieve some inner tension?

This is, most certainly, one of the tastiest (if slightly messy) ways of doing so!

For best results, use a proper vegetable knife or cleaver.

Place the cucumber on a chopping board and remove any object in the near vicinity.

Use the flat side of the blade to smash the cucumber (I usually cut the cucumber into a few pieces first to somewhat reduce the splashing) until it breaks apart.

Cut the fragments into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt.

Next, mince garlic and, optionally, crush some dried chillies. Mix with cucumbers.

Then add vinegar ( I prefer white rice vinegar for this dish, but brown vinegar will do nicely, too), a hint of soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil.

Place lid on bowl and shake well, then serve immediately.

Chinese cucumber II:

This is a somewhat spicier version with peanuts, chopped, not smashed 🙂

You need:

1 cucumber, obviously

soy sauce (light), about 1.5 tsp

1tbsp salt

1 spoon of sugar (you can also use honey instead, too sickly sweet for my liking tho)

1-2 spoons of vinegar (white rice or dark)

1 tbsp of sesame oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced

chilli flakes

a handful of untreated peanuts

Preparation:

Mix soy sauce, salt, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl.

Heat sesame oil in a small pan, add chilli flakes and stir-fry over low heat to release the fragrance. As you take the pan off the heat, put in garlic and stir, then mix the content with the ingredients in the bowl. pour over cucumber, toss lightly and place in refrigerator.

Before serving, roast peanuts in little oil until they turn a golden brown. Sprinkle over cucumbers and serve.

This dish tastes even better on the second day, provided you have any left!

Korean cucumber:

This is a very easy, quick-to-make side dish, also perfect for bibimbap (see previous blog post). For best results, pickle several hours in advance and place in fridge.

Slice cucumber into very thin slices, mix with salt and leave for 20 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Drain off excess liquid in a colander and gently squeeze cucumbers dry. Return to bowl.

Mix rice vinegar with sugar and chilli powder (or sweet pepper powder). Cover bowl and place in fridge. Serve chilled.

As for the Taiwanese version, I don’t have any pictures just yet, but the recipe goes as follows:

Cut cucumber into strips (similar to Chinese cucumber II).

Heat 2 spoonfuls of white vinegar, add two spoons of sugar and wait until it has completely dissolved. Let mixture cool down, then pour over cucumber.

Add chillies if required and place in the refrigerator for at least a few hours.

Expectations not quite met at Lao Xiang

Excited by the euphoric praise of fellow Bloggers and determined to expand my “Authentic Chinese Food in Berlin” portfolio, I ventured to Prenzlauer Berg last night to see if Lao Xiang (Wichertstraße 43 ) really does offer the best Chinese cuisine in the City.

Things did look rather promising at first. The menu is huge (http://laoxiang.de/menus/) and the pictures of all the delicacies made me drool for sure.

We ordered dumplings (煎饺), fried eggplant (家乡茄合), lamb with onions( 葱爆羊肉), sesame balls (芝麻球) and fried beans (干煸豆角)。


The dumplings came first and I was pretty happy with them. They were fried on one side but rather soft altogether, the filling (meat and chives) was moist and super juicy, a rather yummy affair altogether.


Sadly, the other dishes left much to be desired. 

The eggplants tasted mainly of oil, the minced meat inside hardly added flavour and I found the sauce rather bland, too.


The lamb looked and tasted like beef and veered on the salty side. The veggies were nice and crunchy though.

Apart from the fact that the sesame balls should have been covered in sesame, which they were not, they were rather on the oily side, too, and the filling didn’t exactly stand out taste-wise either.


As to the beans, they marked the peak of my discontent. 干煸, literally dry stir-frying, means that you use rather a lot of oil and no water to fry the vegetables until the skin starts to wrinkle slightly (炸至外皮略皱) and, in the case of beans, turns a brownish shade of yellow. This gives the dish a very unique, slightly smoky flavour.

Yesterday’s beans looked like they came straight from the freezer, which is no good for 干煸, as there will be too much moisture in them. You could tell at once they had not been fried long enough as they were perfectly green with no wrinkles whatsoever. Some were still hard inside, too.

Lao Xiang serves the vegetarian version of this dish (which traditionally has some minced meat in it). I don’t mind that at all as long as the beans have enough flavour. Yet, yesterday’s plate showed no traces of either garlic or ginger or spring onion, the only spice came from a couple of red chillies scattered across the beans.

I do admit my expectations towards Chinese food are rather high and the dishes are definitely still above average compared to most other Chinese restaurants in Germany, and maybe the cook just had a bit of a bad day yesterday, but I must say I don’t think the food at Lao Xiang is anywhere near as good and “authentic” (I do think this expression is over-extensively used) as “Dajia Le” (to be reviewed again later on this week) or “Shaniu’s House of Noodles”.

My next project will be to compile a list of Chinese restaurants in Berlin and eventually  review them all. I’d be grateful for suggestions to enlarge this list, which currently contains the following restaurants:

Dajia Le

Tianfu I, Tianfu II and Tianfuzius

Hot Spot

Plumhaus

Shaniu’s House of Noodles

Peking Ente

Lao Shanghai

As I am based in Schoeneberg, most of the places I know are in this part of the city. Do you know of any other great Chinese eateries? Please let me know!

 

 

 

Baozi Bliss Reloaded 家常鲜肉包子

This time, I made them myself. And, what can I say, they were not that bad, if I say so myself.

Not sure whether a Chinese mother-in-law would accept them just yet, but they’re getting better (even if my 包子包法definitely needs further perfecting…)

baozi 1

So, here goes:

家常鲜肉包子

For the dough you need:

250 g flour
1 sachet of active dry yeast
250ml of warm water (add more if needed)
2 tbs of sugar
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of salt

Prepare yeast dough by hand or in a stand mixer, first letting the yeast and the warm water proof for a few minutes. Then sift in the other ingredients and start kneading. If neccessary, add more water to make the dough smooth. After at least 5 minutes of kneading and when dough is elastic and ready, place in well-oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and store for at least two hours in a dark, warm place- it should at least double in size.

For the 馅儿(filling)

250g minced pork
about two handfuls of Chinese cabbage or any other green vegetable, chopped finely
1 bunch of finely chopped garlic chives (alternatively, scallions are also nice)
1 tbs sesame oil
2tbs soy sauce
1 tbs Shaoxing Wine
1/2 stock cube
a few tbs of cold water

baozi 2

Mix the meat and all other ingredients except water in large bowl. Then add one spoonful of cold water at a time and beat in carefully。 This is called 打水and is supposed to avoid the meat turning into a hard lump whilst steaming.

When the dough has risen, cut it into 20-25 pieces. Sprinkle worktop with flour,  roll each piece into a ball and then press it into a flat round shape, approx.10-12cm in diameter. The centre should be thicker than the edges, as to avoid the dough being too thick at the top.

Place a tsp of filling onto the round pieces of dough, then pull the edges up and fold nicely. A demonstration can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWOnm2nyxRk. I find it rather hard to fold them properly, it is important to avoid having a big knob of dough at the top but still ensure they’re properly sealed.

Place the baozi on  previously cut squares of lightly oiled wax or parchment paper. Let buns sit for about half an hour.

To cook, place buns into steamer baskets or steamer racks, make sure there is enough space between the buns as they will increase in size. Cover with lid and steam for about 15 mins, then switch the fire off and let them sit for another 5 minutes. Remove lid and serve immediately, either on their own or with a dip of soy sauce and vinegar.

baozi 3

请慢用!

 

“Selig” no longer induces culinary Seligkeit

Last Monday, I had lunch at Chinese restaurant “Selig” on Kantstraße in Wilmersdorf and was disappointed for the second time.

This place, once renowned for yummy 拉面 noodles has changed for the worse. The interior is rather dark and musty, the tables smell of unwashed dishcloth. The menus are short of falling apart. Upon ordering noodles, I was advised against it by one of the waitresses. I know why now.The 炸酱面,a typical Beijing noodle dish, requires thick, wheat-based noodles, a rich, salty sauce made with minced pork and soybean paste and some fresh vegetables such as cucumber. What I got were spicy rice noodles. Not bad as such but kinda missing the point.

The noodles with pork and sour pickle on the other hand tasted rather odd and nothing like similar dishes I was fortunate enough to sample in China. To my joy, the 小龙报dumplings sort of lived up to their promise. Juicy, tasty, a light reconciliation at least.

With new Asian eateries mushrooming along Kantstraße, I’ll definitely try elsewhere next time though. “Dodeli” just opposite for example offers authentic, tasty and affordable Chinese cuisine, review to follow, hopefully soon.

豆角炒肉末

Google Translate calls this dish Minced Meat Fried Beans but oh, it is so much more…

 

300g string beans (deep frozen or fresh)

50g minced pork (if you’re lazy, take ready mince, I prefer chopping fresh meat)

50g red peppers

salt, chopped ginger and garlic and other necessities ad libitum

Defrost or blanch beans, then chop beans and pepper into small chunks (less than 0.5cm).

Heat oil, add meat and stir-fry until lightly browned and fragrant, ad garlic, ginger, peppers and beans.

Add dried chilies if you prefer the hot version.

Deglaze with soy sauce and a bit of vegetable broth.

Serve with rice.

 

Pictures to follow

Taiwanese Beef Noodles – a first attempt

Übermannt von der Sehnsucht nach Taiwan habe ich bereits ein paar Tage nach unserer Rückkehr den nächsten Asien-Supermarkt geplündert und mich ans Kochen gemacht, hier das Ergebnis:

image

Und so geht’s:

台灣牛肉麵

Zutaten:

Suppenfleisch und -knochen, Pak Choi, Udon Nudeln, Ingwer, Knoblauch, Wasser, Salz, Sternanis, Zimtstangen, chinesische Bohnenpaste

——————————————————————————————–

Wichtigste Zutaten sind natürlich Suppenfleisch (sehnig) und Rinderknochen.

Ich habe 500g Fleisch und 1kg Knochen auf ca. 2,5l Wasser verkocht, für noch intensiveren Geschmack der Suppe hätten es ruhig noch mehr Knochen sein dürfen.

Zu Beginn wird beides kurz (ca. 1 Minute) in einen Topf mit kochendem Wasser gegeben, um Blutreste und andere Verschmutzungen abzulösen. Danach Wasser wegschütten, Fleisch und Knochen beiseite stellen und frisches, kaltes Wasser in den Topf geben. Das Wasser wird erneut zum Kochen gebracht, dann kommen folgende Gewürze dazu:

Sternanis, Zimtstange(n), Knoblauch, frischer Ingwer (Menge nach Belieben), Salz, Sojasoße, Zucker und Bohnenpaste (豆瓣醬). Statt einzelner Gewürze kann man auch einen kräftigen Schuss asiatisches Fünf-Gewürze-Pulver (五香粉) nehmen.

Fleisch und Knochen wieder hinzufügen und das Ganze mindestens 2 Stunden köcheln lassen. Den Deckel habe ich nur schräg aufgelegt, damit Flüssigkeit verdampfen und die Suppe schön reduziert werden konnte.

Wenn das Fleisch weichgekocht ist, kann man in einem weiteren Topf die Nudeln und den Pak Choi kochen. Abtropfen und in eine vorgewärmte Schüssel geben, dann mit Brühe und Fleisch auffüllen. Das Ganze kann nach Wunsch noch mit eingelegtem Gemüse oder gehackten Frühlingszwiebeln garniert werden.

Fertig!
Nachtrag vom zweiten Versuch: noch geschmacksintensiver wird die Suppe, wenn man gewürfelte Fleischtomaten mitkocht= 红烧牛肉麵 .