What is Hunan Cuisine? Our first experience into Hunan.

Me and my sister have a disturbing Mala Addiction. For those in the Know it’s a beautiful balance of Chillies – Spicy – Sichuan Peppercorns – Numbing – Garlic – MSG – Salt – Sesame – and alot of other herbs and spices depending on the menu. Stuck in a Traffic Jam in a really quiet awkward area of Condos, Roads and pretty much nothing else we noticed some restaurants in front of the Entrance to several Condominiums. We were surprised by the amount of Chinese Restaurants within a few meters of each other. Our eyes widen as we saw pictures of fish swimming in red colored oil. Szechuan FOOD!!! Without any hesitation we walked in and was greeted by that familiar smell of pungent mala oil.

Upon opening the menu and trying to communicate with the waitress we found out that we stumbled into a rather big Hunan Community in Bangkok. All the restaurants and people eating here were Hunan. I’ve never really had an experience with Hunan Food but it looked and smelled like Sichuan Cuisine. So where is Hunan?

Credit: Wikipedia

Just on the upper right is Chongqing and Sichuan so i believe that’s why the close proximity has the influence in the cuisine. Will try to learn more but lets take a look at the food. First we ordered the popular and everybody’s favorite Mapo Tofu.

Mapu Tofu Hunan Style is more Spicy than Sichuan Mapo Tofu
Less Gravy but waaay Spicer!

Nice firm chunks of tofu with bits of minced pork – The star really was tofu and what i noticed was there was really less sauce or oil / gravy. I didn’t feel so much of the bean paste here because usually you taste bean paste with the mala but this one was very very spicy. Less emphasis on the MA or the numb but a lot of heat. I do think it was still nicely flavored although intensely hot, you need to eat it with rice and my spice level is quite high. Then the next craving we had was for boiled fish in Mala. They actually had like 3 types so we just picked one. I guess we picked the less spicy one or the Mapo Tofu was just like a nuclear blast of spicy.

Boiled Fish Slices in Mala Oil Hunan Style
Boiled Fish Sliced in Mala Oil & Broth

The fish was perfectly cooked delicate and not over at all – Strangely it was quite brothy and with the oil it was a nice balance of oily and spicy. Underneath there was enoki mushrooms and the sesame provided a nice creaminess to the overall dish. I can’t put my finger on it yet but there is a definite difference to the Szechuan Style and the Hunan Style. I feel that this dish had a more simpler flavor than the usual Szechuan Style. I feel there’s more layers to the Szechuan style.

In “some” chinese restaurants they have these cold salty chicken feet. I’m really not sure which province is the heritage but they would be a bit yellow and mostly served cold. If anyone knows please let me know. It’s rally fun to nibble on the cold and salty gelatinous feet however here they serve it warm and very plump and juicy not dry and chewy like i mostly have had it. For those who have never tried chicken feet it’s quite a yummy snack. It’s like nibbling on a jerky that’s paper thing with tiny bones. A jellyish jerky.

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Cold, Salty and quite yummy! Have to try at least once!

Since we are on feet and gelatinous food – I had to order non spicy food for my parents who my dad’s strictly cantonese – He doesn’t really like spicy food as Cantonese food is quite bland compared to other chinese cuisine and my palate actually leans to the Cantonese Side (Aside from Mala) The Pigs trotters was full of gelatin the and sauce was thick with porky flavours and sticky from all the collagen and marrow that boiled in the sauce. Quite similiar to many trotters i had before with a slight spice which we all thought it was white pepper as we can’t see much in the sauce. Good with piping hot rice as it came with ample sauce.

Juicy Pigs Trotters
Peanuts gave a lovely crunch!

Definitely a must for every table is vegetables. This dish is also popular in many Chinese Restaurants not sure of the heritage although it came with smoked ham and sausage which i’ve never seen before. I did read that Hunan cuisine involved alot of these ingredients so it could be a signature twist to the normal Spinach, Salted Egg, Century Egg and soupy vegetable dish. The taste wasn’t really different elsewhere due the the power of the salted egg and century egg flavors but this dish was definitely milder (Again maby the mapo tofu was so strong) I like this vegetables as it’s a good stepping stone to those wanting to try Century Egg .

Century & Salted Egg spinach Chinese Cuisine
Garlicky, delicate flavours!

Last but not least every Cantonese meal cannot start, last and end without soup. I have never seen a chinese soup with a kombu like seaweed before. It didn’t have the same strong taste but somehow the soup was actually a creamy mouthfeel and a umami taste of the sea flavour with the creaminess of pork “fat”? It was quite a good bowl of soup. The pork spareribs were falling off the bone. It was really good mixed with rice and chinese level boiling hot soup. A really good meal and a great introduction into the world of Hunan Food. Maybe next time we will try those skewers not in the menu that other people were eating.

Hunan Pork Bone and Kelp Seaweed Soup
Really delicious hearty soup!

Please leave any comments and more knowledge for me would love to learn more about Hunan Cuisine. Thank you!

Fusion Vegan Dinner Experiment

Continuing with trying to go Vegan, one of the dishes I can’t live without is Nam Prik. Originally Thais eat alot of Nam Prik which literally translate to “Water of or from Chillies”. People would pound chillies, garlic, shallots, with either shrimp paste or Pla Rah – Thai anchovies to make a dip which is eaten with rice or sticky rice and an assortment of boiled and raw vegetables. I love Nam Phrik Pla Rah even more than cheese. I can almost give up cheese but i can’t give up my Nam Prik. On a Sunday with no one to feed but myself i went on an experiement of making a Vegan Nam Prik that i would be ok. First with no charcoal grill i used to oven to roast an assortment of Thai Long eggplant, chilies, garlic, shallots and tomatoes.

Roasting Vegetables for vegan dip
45 Mins roasting at about 200 Degrees

After peeling the veggies and shredding the eggplants and chilies i started to pound my dip.

Vegan Dip Recipe
The veggies were piping hot! Smelled delicious!
Vegan Dip Thai Style
Ready to Pound in my Thai Stone Mortar

I added some Pink Salt, white pepper and a tiny tiny amount of sugar and pounded.

Vegan Thai Dip Nam Prik
Less than a minute of pounding

I felt it lacked the umami taste of fish sauce and the fermented anchovy “Pla Rah”. Right now it tasted spicy, garlicky and sour with the limes. The eggplant has a nice mouth feel to it. But i felt it needed a savory aspect to it. So i added some vegan miso to it. It didn’t replace the Pla Rah but it gave i that savory kick i was looking for. Now what to eat it with as it was a hot day and i didn’t feel like rice. So i used a Konyakky seaweed noodle. Completely vegan as well. After poaching it briefly in hot water and rinsing it this is what it looked like.

Vegan Konyakky Noodle
A strange crispy and crunchy noodle

It is a very strange noodle. It feels like an over set jelly with too much gelatin. But it has an interesting texture i felt will offset the soft Nam Prik Veggie Dip. So now let’s arrange our plate.

Vegan Dinner - Konyakky noodle and Thai Nam Prik Inspired Recipe.
Added some boiled chives to give it a pop of color.

Now mix it all together and eat.

Vegan Noodle Salad with Eggplant Nam Prik
Spicy, Sour, Crispy, Crunchy. Delicious!

A great dish for a hot day. Simple to make and nothing complicated. A good solid Vegan dish ūüôā Maybe it’s easier to eat alot less meat with more weird experiments. Anyone with ideas please feel free to share them!

Road to Veganism – Mushroom Tempura – Leather Stuff?

Since the last post I have been quite successful in keeping meat and diary products to the minimum, some days 100% some days 1 meal a day. This is more complicated than i thought considering the whole point of this is empathy and no waste. I am not sure that throwing my my leather goods makes sense, I dont think i will be purchasing any more leather products and since gaining a sense of “Enoughism? I stood in front of my closest and actually agree that i’m content in this lifetime not buying anything more – Branded goods etc… However i dont think i’m going to toss away my Chanel that i spent years saving for…. My Dr. Martens they still fit as well as all the good quality leather that was bought years ago. There seems so much debate on the internet. Anyways if anyone has some advice or a thought please let me know or what to do about this transition. Anyways – Mushroom Tempura – If you are not using oyster mushrooms where there are slits for the batter to hold on too ) ! had a big lot of Eringi Mushrooms as i was experimenting with a “Creamy Carbonara” made entirely of Eringi Mushrooms and salted crispy tofu skin as the “Bacon” the batter would slide right off. So i cut slits into my mushrooms, coated it with a salt and pepper flour and then a batter that was a total fluke. It made totally no sense to mix glutinous rice flour with corn flour. It was a fluke mistake that turned out totally perfect.

See all the fluffy transparent batter?


Eringi Mushroom Tempura Batter:

No measurements whatsoever – 1 Part Glutinous Rice Flour to 4 Parts Corn Starch.

COLD COLD Soda Water just enough until mixed well. Salt and Pepper to Taste.

That’s it…. Opps – Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce

1 Table Spoon Light Soy Sauce or Dark if you have – it’s fine

1 Teaspoon Honey or Maple Syrup

1 Table Spoon Grated Turnip and Ginger if you have it. 3 Tablespoons of Hot water or more to taste. Let me know how it goes!

Peanut Butter + Tomato Sauce with Zucchini & Minced Pork Omelette on whole grain Toast.

A very gross sounding combination: Sesame & Peanuts for a homemade peanut butter flavored with a hint of wild honey. Low sodium and honey tomato compote or sauce on top of a zucchini and minced pork omelette on whole grain toast.

Quick and easy snack ūüôā 70 Percent Zucchini and 30 Percent Pork.

Now there was bits of leftover homemade sesame peanut butter and tomato sauce. Somehow it turned out delicious!

Peanut Butter & Tomato Sauce actually works!

Omelette a Le Mont Saint Michel – A Copy Cat Version

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Seeing the Internet Video of the famous Omelette from the famous restaurant made me curious whether i can copy it.

Apparently it’s possible….

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Quite Oooozzzyyy and flufffy.  Feels like you are eating a cloud.

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This really is the fluffiest omelette.. Ever……

Best Seafood in Moscow – Arbat Street

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Interior of restaurant

Walking along Arbat Street we stumbled across a little sign that showed a cute crab – After 15 days in Russia we were quite sick of meat and the three of us trotted down the stairs to the second level to have a “crab” seafood dinner. ¬†This little restaurant had about 15 tables – seats maybe 50 – 70 people comfortably – clean bathrooms and very friendly service with English Menus. ¬†They specialize in Seafood – Prawns – Oysters – Crabs.

 

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Oysters – Fresh – Briny – Delicious

Pricing isn’t bad at all – The seafood is served in a cold platter but depends on which platter you pick – The prawns arrive hot – get the Russian ones they are big with plump Roe! – The whelk with potatoes is delicious and arrives hot, the scallops are a bit small but hot and tasty – well seasoned – the mussles are excellent and arrive piping hot and a generous amount. ¬†We went there 2 times – First time ¬†we got the platter to share for three people maybe it’s because we are asian or we just eat little and we couldn’t finish it.

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Piping Hot & Delicious Russian Prawns

Second time we ordered ala carte which turned out to be more expensive with less food so get the platter!  Giant Crabs are very expensive in Thailand which can go for over 1000 roubles for 1 piece in the supermarket and here it was about 1800 roubles for a whole plate.

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In many high end restaurants they serve these giant crab legs but are salty – over here its very meaty and not salty at all. ¬†I’m most impressed however with the prawns – the roe is bright and very plump and very delicious – you can taste the sea with every bite.

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Plump Roe

The have a few choices for soup, on the first visit we have the bisque which was ok but not something to order again.  However on our second trip we ordered the milk crab soup and it was absolutely delicious.  Milky, creamy crabby with a hint of spice.  It was very very good.

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Very very good!

We also ordered the little prawns that arrived in a small metal bucket.  It was the same as those you get in the platter so i definitely recommend getting the platter as it is alot cheaper.

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Refreshing and delicious in a strange way.

They recommended us a drink / lemonade – cucumber, mint concoction was just refreshing and actually really nice. ¬†We had 3 jugs as it wasn’t overly sweet and somehow the got the balance right with the cucumber lemonade and basil. ¬†Great way to balance the meal.

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Get a nice 5 percent discout!

Upload pictures on instragram and you get a 5 percent discount. ¬†Which you can go with their free wifi. ¬†Their servers are very friendly and very nice even with limited english. ¬†It’s rare to fins such nice servers in Russia in my opinion and they really went the extra mile to help out. ¬†Definitely one of the best places to come. ¬†It’s located around the middle of Arbat street, next to a Kid’s restaurant. ¬†There’s only 1 seafood restaurant that i saw in Arbat street so not hard to find.

 

Easy Cheats Homemade Sausage Rolls

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Piping Hot!

Everyone craves a good homemade sausage roll once in a while, yet no one who has a job, family and a bunch of dogs should even have to time to act Martha Steward and roll her own puff pastry.  Guilt as charged.  Buy a roll of ready made puff pastry from the freezer section, in Bangkok we have a great brand that made fresh with no preservatives Рhence the short life span.  Usually i made a mixture of pork, carrots, potatoes as the mince but after a hectic week i just grabbed a package of Cumberland sausage, a few carrots and potatoes. I thawed my pastry overnight in the fridge.  Makes it easier to roll without breaking.

Dice the carrots a bit smaller than the potatoes so you have an equal cooking time, saute them in some olive oil and garlic.  Season well with salt, pepper, paprika and a tiny hint of sugar.  Just a small touch to offset the saltiness of the pork.

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Lovely golden brown and not soggy at all!

I unwrap the baking paper on the baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry directly on the baking sheet.  I mix the sausage mixture into the cooled veggie mixture and mix well gently.  I dont season anymore now as sausages tend to be quite salty.  Shape into logs on the puff pastry and roll it over.  Leave a bit of space before cutting it.  No need to be neat.  Roll it over again so the edges are on the bottle.  Flatten slightly and cut into pieces with a wet knife wiping in between.  As you see i cut into different sizes and they bake at the same time.

Rub a bit of beaten egg and throw in oven with fan at 125 degrees.  Rotate tray after 15 mins and brush some more egg wash and they are ready to be eaten hot in 10 Р15 mins.

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Crispy, buttery and juicy!

 

 

Pan Seared Tenderloin with Pasta

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Cooled & Sliced – Perfect Medium & Medium Rare Parts

Another rough day at work and wishing for a sumptuous dinner.  Sister says want beef the night before.  Nice beef tenderloin defrosting whilst at work.  Everyone arrives home and demand to be fed.

45 Mins Dinner Challenge:

  1. 1 Beef Tenderloin – Rubbed with Olive Oil and Smashed garlic with salt into a puree
  2. Package of Pasta from Italy
  3. Home Made Tomato Puree (Roasted Tomatoes and crushed)
  4. Home Grown Basil from Garden
  5. Salt & Pepper

Heat Pan to HIGH.  Use non burning oil, I used Rice bran.  Sear Beef on all sides Р3 Mins on each side, lower and cover pan for 5 mins.  Reheat to high and sear again on all sides (pouring off juices to make gravy)  Cover and set aside.

At the same time I have boiled a medium salted water and threw in the dried pasta.  This type takes around 9 mins to cook on the pack. I turned of the heat at 6.  And took pot of stove.  In another pan, heated the tomato sauce, threw in the beef drippings and flavored with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar to help balance the acid.

Drain pasta and mix with sauce.  I find that if you time pasta correctly you can turn it off the heat before cooking time is over but this takes experience and lots of mistakes on my part.  I find that you dont need to add any more pasta water as the pasta has water in them.

Slice beef and place on pasta, sprinkle basil to each person’s liking and serve. ¬†Usually i serve with thin slices but Sister said she was hungry.

Guaranteed it was soft and tender.  Was hoping for leftovers but everyone devoured it.  Completely.  Happy Tummy, Happy Family.

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Dinner in 45 mins

Fiery Spicy Szechuan Cuisine

My knowledge of Szechuan Cuisine or Sichuan Food is actually limited to Ma La Hot Pot, the bubbling stock with hot oil, szechuan peppercorns, garlic, five spice ingredients and extreme amount of dried chillies.  It is actually my favorite type of hot pot.  Going to a szechuan restaurant was interested or so i thought.  Would it actually be the same approach?  All food just topped with the spicy oil / spices?  I was in for a treat.

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Waste Nothing!

Organ meat is a very chinese thing, we eat everything. ¬†Most likely it’s a waste not mentality. ¬†If i’m not istaken this is the stomach from a cow. ¬†It’s got a chewy crispyish texture more than any taste actually but the spicy garlicy oil made it a nice appetizer to whet your appetite before the fire starts. ¬†I appreciated the green cirpsy and watery thin celery stalk to help add some coolness to my poor tongue.

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Decadent Pork Belly

This was not spicy at all, i think it was great over piping hot rice. ¬†I’m not entirely sure how they made that sauce but it was more sesame in taste, i’m sure there’s ginger in there somewhere. ¬†I understand it looks oily but it doesn’t feel too oily, it doesn’t coat your tongue like when you chew on a blob of butter or margarine. ¬†It seems to melt away leaving this comforting taste. ¬†Really good. ¬†Too salty to eat alone although i preferred it with some rice.

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Nice hit of crispy greens

In Thailand food we usually stir fry cabage with fish sauce, over thre it’s oyster sauce i presume with a few dried chillies thrown in for good measure. ¬†Done correctly cabbage¬†shouldn’t¬†soggy but ¬†with a nice crisp texture and juicy freshness. ¬†This helped balace out all the rich meats so far.

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Ma La Craziness!

My absolute favorite is the Ma La spices, this arrived smoking hot and you can actually feel the dried chillies sizzling in the hot oil. ¬†It’s probably palm oil, with dried chillies, garlic, szechuan peppercorns and other crazy goodness. There is a thick vermicelli noodle which is sticky and chewy in texture and sliced beef. ¬†It was a bomb of chillies, numbness and savory saltiness in every bite. ¬†The beef was tender and the soup underneath was quite delicious. ¬†However you do have to sort your way through the pool of oil. ¬†People may cringe at the amount of oil, but i’m actually ok, it’s not like we eat this every single day.

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Chilli Power!

Now this is everyone’s favorite, the MAPO TOFU. ¬†You see in japanese restaurants but you dont really find it in every chinese restaurant. ¬†Chinese food is quite vast with different regions serving totally different food. ¬†This was like bolder MA LA crazy version, it was so spicy, a hint of sweet with a bit of minced prok thrown in for good measure. ¬†It was so delicious over piping hot rice. ¬†You can’t really eat it on it’s own, it starts to burn after the third bite.

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Best Potato I have ever Tasted!!!!

This potato dish arrived and i though it was just short strands of spaghetti stir fried.  To my amazement it was round strands of potato, stir fried.  Its so hard to explain, it was mushy, but it was al dente but not under cooked.  It was salty, savory, not too oily.  It was very interesting.  It was the highlight of the night, it seemed so normal but the taste and texture was just so interesting and delicious.  I must find out how they cooked this dish.

Szechuan cuisine is really more than just the hot pot but i do believe it’s an acquired taste, it’s very different from my day to day chinese food but it’s a great lift to a cold gloomy day washed with some cold beer. ¬†Definitely for people who love spice, and dont mind a bit of oiliness. ¬†Only warning is for your stomach and it’s a scary addiction.