Tag Archives: chinese food

Giving Thanks for Jujubes

News and Travel Editor

Tomorrow, Thursday 24th November, is Thanksgiving Day in the USA. A day traditionally celebrated with family, a roast turkey and all the trimmings. As you salivate in anticipation of a Thanksgiving feast, I’m going to introduce you to a very different edible tradition. An ancient Chinese fruit that you may never of heard of, the Jujube!

Firstly, what is a Jujube? Also known as Chinese Date, Jujubes have been cultivated in China for over 4000 years! There’s over 700 types, each with varying textures and flavours. Eaten fresh, they taste crisp and fresh like apples. When dried, they taste and look a lot like dates! Jujube trees are tough with spiky branches and able to tolerate both cold and drought.

 

There’s lots of different ways to enjoy Jujubes. You can chomp on them fresh, or bake dried ones into a cake. They can be made into juice, syrups and liquors, or my personal favourite way to eat them – candied!

This wonder fruit is also important in other ways. Some experts believe Jujubes help aid restful sleep, and in traditional Chinese Medicine the fruit is used to treat the aches, pains and abdominal pain. As part of a traditional wedding ceremony, Jujubes are places onto the new couple’s bed in honour to promote fertility in the marriage.

Want a taste?

Here’s a recipe from Baker Gal to try at home

Candied Jujube Recipe

2 lbs dried jujube
3 1/3 cups cold water
3 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp corn starch

1. Wash and drain jujubes. Prick each jujube a few times with a fork. Mix cold water, sugar, and cornstarch, and bring to a boil. Add jujubes. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and refrigerate overnight.
2. In the morning, return the mixture to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Then, remove jujubes from the syrup and place on foil-lined pans. Place the pans in a 275F oven and bake for 2 to 5 hours or until dry to the touch.

So, do you think you’ll be incorporating this wonderfruit into your diet any time soon? Have you ever eaten Jujubes before – and if so, what did you think? Is there another Chinese food you’d love to learn more about? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Make Chinese Prawn Hotpot

News and Travel Editor

This week, Coco returns with one of her most popular recipes, featuring the most demanding of customers – Her mom! No pressure then…

Coco gives us the perfect dish that allows you to spend more time with your family and less time in the kitchen. Not to mention that this is probably the tastiest recipe Coco has shown us so far.

Coco’s top tips include a lesson in how to devein a prawn and how to avoid being burnt by hot oil splashes.

Had a go at the dish? Let us know in the comments and send us your photos! We might even feature them on our blog next time.

For more authentic Chinese recipes from the one and only Coco, be sure to take a look at the China Icons Food & Drink Playlist.

How to make traditional Chinese Tofu

News and Travel Editor

World Vegan Day may have been yesterday, but we’re still celebrating at China Icons with a brand new vegetarian and vegan recipe – traditional Chinese tofu!

China has a loooooong history with Tofu. Add some store cupboard staple ingredients and you’ll rustle up an impressive mid-week dinner in no time.

Packed with tips on how to make Chinese cuisine, Coco shows us her signature way to prepare a garlic and don’t forget – ‘hot pan and cold oil’!

 

For more easy, authentic Chinese recipes, be sure to look at Coco’s videos on the China Icons Food and Drink Playlist

In China right now, or heading over soon? Check out our blog on how to survive in China on a meat-free diet:

What’s your favourite vegan/vegetarian Chinese dish? Send us your photos and recipes below – we’ll share our favourites!

Legends of Tofu

News and Travel Editor

In today’s upload, we’re meeting a married couple who have devoted their lives to making Tofu.

So we now know how to make Tofu, but where did it come from? The earliest existing document containing mention of the term “doufu” (Chinese for Tofu) is the Ch’ing I Lu, written by T’ao Ku in about 950 AD. There are several  Chinese legends concerning the origins of Tofu, but which is true?

  1. A popular theory is that tofu was invented by Liu An, King of Huai-nan, who lived in the southeast part of north China from 179-122 BC. Despite being the most well known story, it’s also the least likely to be true. There was no mention of tofu or any works commissioned by or about Liu An for over 1,000 years after his death. Linking his name with the development of tofu didn’t actually start until the 12th century AD.During the Sung dynasty (960-1279AD) tofu had become a common food for the lower classes. The first suggestion of some connection between Liu An and tofu appeared in the poems of scholar Chu Hsi (1130-1200). Here is his poem, “Doufu.” (Psst, if you’re interesting in reading about translating ancient Chinese poetry, have a look here)

    I have raised beans for many years, but the sprouts were rare.

    Exhausted in the garden, the heart already rotten

    Had I known Huai-nan’s skill earlier,

    I could have sat quietly, raking in the money.

  2. Another theory is known as ‘The Accidental Coagulation Theory’. It states that tofu was developed  accidentally some time before AD 600, when an unknown person seasoned a pureed soybean soup with unrefined sea salt and noticed that curds formed. This mystery person stumbled onto a game-changer!
    5th-cut-00_02_46_23-still014
  3. The Indian Import Theory argues that tofu, or at least the method for its preparation, was imported from tribes or Buddhist monks from India.
  4. The Mongolian Import Theory states that the basic method for making tofu was adapted from the cheese-making process learned from milk-drinking Mongolian tribes living along the northern border of China.5th-cut-00_03_42_18-still015

Which legend do you believe?

Wherever it came from originally, Tofu developed from being a food for the lower classes to being a staple part of the Chinese diet. To try cooking with Tofu yourself and have a go at China Icon’s Vegan Tofu Mushroom rolls!

 

Yangcheng Lake’s Hairy Crabs

News and Travel Editor

During the 9th and 10th months of the lunar calendar, China’s culinary scene is all about hairy crab, also known as Chinese Mitten Crab. The highly anticipated hairy crab season runs from late October to early December, and every year thousands of people flock for the to Yangcheng Lake for the best crabs in China.

If you want proof that these crabs are a big deal, check out this quote from 17th century Chinese writer Li Yu: “While my heart lusts after them and my mouth enjoys their delectable taste (and in my whole life there has not been a single day when I have forgotten them), I can’t even begin to describe or make clear why I love them, why I adore their sweet taste, and why I can never forget them… Dear crab, dear crab, you and I, are we to be lifelong companions?”……It’s clear he was a fan.

2000 families work at Yangcheng Lake to supply the demand, catching, binding and preparing them for market. Large crabs sell for up to $80 each! Crabs from Yangcheng Lake can sell for up to 30 -50 times the price of other hairy crabs, which are eaten year round.

Chinese medicine places great importance on balancing hot and cold energy – Yin and Yang. If these forces aren’t in balance, you will start to suffer aches and pains. Hairy crab is regarded as a yin, and Huangjiu ‘yellow wine’ as yang. This is why Chinese foodies pair hairy crab, no matter the dish, with Huangjiu, the traditional accompaniment to hairy crabs for centuries.

Hong Kong-based food writer Janice Leung-Hayes explains to Forbes “The first batch to be in season are the male crabs, which have a more solid roe, and the females, which have a more fluid roe, ripen later. Both are delicious though and you’ll find that Chinese gourmands will have their own preferences.”

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-17-01-04

If you’re interested in learning how to eat a crab for yourself, check out this how-to guide from CNN.

Will you be trying a hairy crab this autumn? Have you ever had one before? Do you have any top tips for eating them? Let us know in the comments below!

 

The Etiquette of Eating in China

News and Travel Editor

In this week’s upload, Coco is reunited with blogger Hyper Trypsy (also known as Shiv) for a final collaboration. This time, it’s all about the etiquette of eating and how to throw the perfect Chinese dinner party.

Feeling hungry? Let’s get started.

unnamed.jpg

….And usually with their back to a wall. The next highest ranking person, such as an important guest, sits to the right of the host. At this dinner party, Shiv is the host and Coco is his esteemed guest. Okay, so we’re seated…now what?

unnamed-1.jpg

Once everyone is settled, it’s time to let the waiter know you’re ready for the menu. Hold up your hand and say Fu Wu Yuan, which means simply ‘waiter’. If you want, you can add ‘caidan’, which means ‘menu’. The waiter will bring you over a menu and it’s time to order.

unnamed-2.jpg

It’s important to remember that the host orders for everyone to share. Menus in Chinese restaurants come complete with pictures, so it’s easy to understand what’s on offer even if your Chinese isn’t up to scratch. A good Chinese meal has to be balanced. The dishes should offer a variety of ingredients, cooking methods, flavors, colours and textures.

unnamed-3.jpg

Another big responsibility you’ll have as host is leading the first toast. The toast in China is Gan bei, meaning “drain the glass.” Usually, this toast will be made with Baijiu (a strong spirit often made from rice) or  beer. Often, the ‘honoured guest’ is expected to make a toast too, either straight after the host of at the end of the meal.

unnamed-4.jpg

Don’t panic when you see multiple pairs of chopsticks set out for you. Use the pale coloured pair to take food from the communal dishes onto your plate. Use the dark pair to eat with. Easy!

unnamed-6.jpg

For Westerners, this may take some getting used to, but in China you NEVER split the bill. One person pays for the whole thing each time. Usually, the person who invited you is most likely to pay. Thanks for that, Coco!

Do you have any top tips for eating out at a Chinese restaurant? Were you surprised by any of mine? Let me know in the comments below!

PS, Thanks to our friends at China Bloggers for adding us to their website. Check it out for more from China Icons and other great bloggers exploring all things China.

 

Can you be a Vegan in China?

News and Travel editor

Is it possible to be a Vegan in China? You may be travelling to China for the first time and worried about your options, or could just be curious to know if it’s possible. It’s true that it can be a challenge to maintain a Vegan diet on your trip to China, but it is definitely possible and we’ve got a lot of tips to help.

How to tell people you are a vegan

The first thing you need to know is how to tell other people that you are a Vegan. There is no direct translation, which can be a bit frightening! However, don’t panic. What is often recommended instead is the phrase ‘Wǒ chī sù’, meaning ‘I eat vegetables’. Check out the pronunciation here.

What to watch out for

In China, most cooking stocks are made from meat, and meat is added to just about everything.

When you’re eating out, be aware that the further away you venture from tourist hotspots, the less likely you are to find English translations on the menu. In a similar vein, being in a big city means that vegetarian restaurants and cafes are more frequently available, such as this fine-dining restaurant in Beijing.

Don’t assume that most Buddhists in China are Vegan or Vegetarian. Some temples DO have Vegetarian restaurants attached but certainly not all.

Make sure to bring snacks on Chinese Airlines, as you’re unlikely to be offered a Vegan option on the plane.

Keep an eye out for…

Fruits and Vegetables

We could be here all day, so I’ll just mention a few of my favourites. Star fruit, lychees, rambutan, jackfruit and baked sweet corn are all delicious and easily available from markets and street food vendors.

Tofu

Tofu needs a whole blog to itself, as it’s so versatile and a staple in the diet of Chinese vegans and non-vegans alike.The Chinese have been cooking with Tofu since the Han dynasty, 2,000 years ago. Enjoy it crispy and fried, spicy Szechuan-Style, or Kung-Pao style with rice and vegetables.

You Tiao/Dough Sticks

Delicious long golden-brown deep-fried strips of dough served with Soy milk. Just be sure to check what the strips are fried in before tucking in!

Hot pot

The varieties here are infinite. Of course, many varieties of hot pot do contain meat and meat stocks – but there are so many veggie-filled vegan examples to satisfy even the pickiest taste-buds. Get it hot and spicy or keep things mild – it’s up to you! At a hot pot restaurant, you order the ingredients and cook it all yourself in a boiling broth at the table. Make sure to specify that you need vegetable stock, and it becomes a great way to guarantee that no animal-based ingredients managed to sneak in.

Congee

A silky rice porridge that is a breakfast staple in Chinese homes. Have it plain with some side dishes, or add vegetables like mushrooms, edamame, and pak choi. In restaurants, sweet versions are often the safest bet for a Vegan dish.

Noodles

Noodles are a great option, as you can point at what vegetables you would like with them. However, be aware that often the soup they will be served in is Chicken or Beef. If you want to make noodles for yourself, check out this video.

Spring Rolls

A personal favourite of mine, I couldn’t bare to leave them off the list. Crispy, packed with vegetables and dipped into a sweet-chilli sauce is how I like them.

Green Pea Pudding

The only dessert on the list, this traditional sweet pudding is eaten like candy with toothpicks or served with afternoon tea. Also known as Pea Cubes or Pea Jelly Squares.

Want to read more?

For more advice on Veganism in China, check out these bloggers:
Peacefull Dumpling
Liuzhou Laowai
Heart of a Vagabond

Do you have any more recommendations that I left off this list? Let me know in the comments below!