Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

The art and science of cooking, part 2

As promised earlier, here is part 2 to the food series, being posted slightly later than I had intended, but better late than never! I’ll skip the introduction since it has already been presented in part 1, so without further ado, let’s get to the goodies.

Did someone say sushi? Yes indeed! I made sushi for my friend Cindy’s birthday party last month and mmmmmm, it was worth every bit of effort. Certainly, sushi is one of those things that takes a lot of preparatory work but is also a lot of fun to make in the process. I had five main ingredients as the fillings: raw salmon, shrimp (with mayonnaise), cucumber, avocado, and crab sticks. For each maki roll (I tried to make nigiri sushi but failed miserably) I mixed and matched random ingredients and out came our delicious Japanese favourite!

Another dish for Cindy’s party – baked garlic butter mussels! I probably never mentioned this except in the Spain entries, but I love seafood! One day I decided to experiment with baked mussels. It was simple, really. All it took was finely minced garlic, finely diced onions, melted butter, and shredded cheese. Mix the first three together, pour a spoonful over each half-shelled mussel, and top the baking tray with copious amounts – or whatever amount you can handle – of cheese (the version featured above is only slightly cheesed). Bake at an arbitrarily high temperature for about 10 minutes and voilΓ , les moules Γ  l’ail et le beurre, or baked mussels with butter garlic sauce. I’m sure it’s not so healthy, but who could resist the sizzling sound of butter, the irresistible smell of garlic, and the heavenly taste of seafood?

And here’s one that shows the entire process of being made – spring rolls! I’ve made then once in France, a pan-fried version, yet nothing is quite like crispy, deep-fried, golden spring rolls. I wanted to try it for Cindy’s birthday party, so I gave it a go beforehand. The ingredients include cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, tofu, and shrimp. It probably took the same amount of preparation as sushi, if not more, but again, well worth the time. Rolling was the best part, and deep frying was made infinitely easier with a wok instead of a pot πŸ˜‰ And the result…

…warm, crunchy, golden, FRESH spring rolls Γ  la Annie! Gah, brings back the taste of Cantonese dim sum restaurants ^__^ The only problem was…they didn’t stay crispy!! The spring rolls turned soggy after awhile, and I think what I did wrong was that I didn’t soak up all the oil with paper towels immediately. Perhaps the ingredients also needed to be drained as much as possible before rolling, and that’ll be two lessons learned for the next time! Because of this little problem I didn’t end up making spring rolls for Cindy, but at least we had sushi and mussels. Let’s try this spring roll thing again next time!

Now, onto some more ordinary stuff. For something simpler and more “light”, how about some stir-fried potatoes and carrots? My mom cooks the plain potato version of this all the time with a touch of “Gansu” flavour, which is the province in China where she came from. Apparently it requires special sauce from Gansu, which I don’t have, so I made a simplified version with only the regular sauces, a.k.a. soy sauce and vinegar. The combination of potatoes and carrots gave a pleasant texture, though again I think I made it a bit too spicy.

This dish is known as “Killing Niu Mo Wang With Raging Rods”, or δΊ‚ζ£ζ‰“ζ­»η‰›ι­”ηŽ‹ in Chinese. Thanks to Andy for telling me about this interesting name! “Niu Mo Wang” means “Bull Demon King”, and is a character in the Chinese classic novel, Journey to the West. Here it is represented by the ground beef, while of course the rods are our green beans. I made this quite often in Belgium because it took almost no time at all, and goes so well with a bowl of rice!

Last but not least, I present bak choy (Chinese cabbage) with shrimp. Lately I’ve started to use frozen mussels with bak choy, simmered in a white wine/oyster sauce mixture with some other bits and pieces (only the mussels, not the bak choy). It actually tastes pretty good; maybe I’ll include that in part 3, if there is ever going to be one. Anyway, the shrimp edition was one of my earliest dishes made in France. I’m so glad they have at least one Chinese supermarket in Bordeaux that provides my Chinese needs, such as bak choy. I can live!

Annie’s collection of Chinese sauces in the kitchen corner

As an epilogue, I bring you into one corner of my tiny kitchen where most of my cooking sauces are kept. I don’t use some of the obscure ones, and if they’re there, they were probably left behind by friends. The ones I often use are oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, chilli bean paste, Guilin chilli sauce, and of course, sugar, salt, and pepper, which aren’t sauces. Annie dreams of a better kitchen where she can house a whole spectrum of cooking AND baking ingredients and utensils…in time πŸ˜‰

Like sushi and spring rolls? What should I make next?

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4 responses to “The art and science of cooking, part 2

  1. London Caller May 3, 2012 at 23:46

    Ha, you’re definitely more Chinese than me, Annie! πŸ˜‰
    I only have oyster sauce, soya sauce, sesame oil in my cupboard.
    I love you sushi! I make chirashi zushi at home sometimes.
    It’s easier than roll sushi, no need wrap the rice in nori (seaweed).
    Just top all the stuff on the rice. Ta-dah it’s done! πŸ™‚
    Sometimes, I top it with wakame (seaweed) though.

    Like

  2. Annie Bananie May 4, 2012 at 13:48

    Chirashizushi is so tempting, but don’t you have to prepare lots of different types of fish then? πŸ˜›

    Like

  3. Pingback: The art and science of cooking, part 4 | Annie Bananie en Europe

  4. Pingback: The art and science of cooking, part 5 | Annie Bananie en Europe

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