Tag Archives: food

the best Shanghai crab specialist (大閘蟹) in Hong Kong & how to prepare & eat them

Shanghai Crabs selling in Wah Kee Wing Cheong Ho, Causeway Bay

Having left Hong Kong, my home town for 3 years, it’s the first time that my recent visit fell into the Shanghai Crab season.

 

Background

Yangcheng Lake (陽澄湖) and Tai Yu (太湖) are the most famous areas producing Shanghai crabs (literally meaning Big Gate Crabs). Each year from September and December is the best time for Shanghai Crabs.

Perhaps eating Shanghai Crabs are really time-consuming and a lot of foreign people may think it is tedious and skillful to eat them. Meanwhile if you are a crab lover, it would be worthwhile to try at least one time in your life time. There was one time some years ago that my ex-colleagues and I paid a visit to Shanghai and enjoyed eating the Shanghai crabs directly caught from Yang Cheng Lake. The whole dinner was just eating Shanghai crabs, it was really a lifetime and memorable experience, I hope I could repeat this trip again in the future.

The most common and easiest way to prepare the Shanghai crabs is simply by steaming. It is more enjoyable eating at home and at the same time much cheaper than in the restaurant. What’s more important is that, although it’s easy to prepare the crabs but it is very critical to buy the crabs from a reliable distributor. I was introduced to Wah Kee Wing Cheong Ho (華記永昌號) many years ago at work and I have bought Shanghai crabs from them ever since.

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Main retail shop address:

G/F, 460 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Although I have not been their real frequent customer but they were so friendly and helpful this time as always that they had chosen the best quality crabs for me and my family was very happy and satisfied with the crabs.

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Later I found out that their crabs are also distributed to c!ty’super (a high-end supermarket and retail chain in Hong Kong. They have a flyer which teaches people how to buy, choose and cook these crabs, very good resources that I have taken a copy, adapted and now share with you.

 

Characteristics

Usually in a slightly square shape which is about the size of a human palm. They range in color from olive green to dark brown and their golden brown claws are distinctive for their thick, dense covering of hair. The legs are about twice as long as the body. I prefer male crabs than to female crabs as the roe is much softer and tastier. Roe, 蟹膏 is the delicious yellow fat that makes Shanghai crabs so tasty.

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Buying Tips

Buying Tips for Shanghai Crabs

  1. To check the crab’s freshness, simply knock on the crab’s shell. If its eyes respond and move, then it indicates freshness. The best crabs’ outer shells usually are dark green in color, and have a clear sheen.
  2. To distinguish the crab’s gender, turn it around and look at its abdomen. Female crabs have a round belly whereas male ones are recognized by its pointed belly.
  3. Buy crabs that have nice and firm legs as that generally indicates a meatier crab.
  4. The ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar is the best time to eat female crabs as they are full of protein and roe, while the tenth month is better for male crabs as they are full of roe and milt.

 

 

Cooking Tips

Shanghai crab is usually cooked by steaming.

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  1. Wash the crabs in tap water by brushing briefly the legs and shell using a small brush. Keep the strings on the crabs, do not remove them!!!
  2. Boil water in a wok or steaming pan. Place the Chinese Dried Shiso leaves (紫蘇葉) into the the boiling water, this is to minimize the coldness (寒 涼), see also below and to get rid of the seafood smell from the crabs.
  3. Roughly steam the crabs for about 18-20 mins, depending on the size of your crabs. You can ask the shop assistants, they are always happy to explain you the instruction.
  4. Place on a plate with the abdomens facing upward, this is to avoid the yellow roe from losing from the crabs.
  5. The cooked crab should be a bright shade of red and is delicious when served with minced ginger, Chinese raw brown sugar and vinegar.
  6. Do not eat the crescent-shaped lungs or intestines.
  7. A Shanghai crab meal is better accompanied by warmed Shao Hsing wine (紹興酒) with a plum (話梅) added to the wine to enhance the taste.
  8. It is said that the Shanghai crabs are rather cold (寒 涼) (Chinese medicine) in natural, this can be balanced by having a hot ginger tea which is simply cooked by boiling slices of fresh ginger and brown sugar.

Link: How to cook Shanghai Crabs (Chinese Version) 

 

 

Eating Tips

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  1. There are no specific steps or rules to follow when it comes to eating a hairy crab. Yet the clever way is to remove the crab legs by twisting them until they come off.
  2. The bits that look like chrysanthemum petals are the crab’s lungs. Discard.
  3. The meat inside the claws can be removed by breaking the joint on the top with a pair of crab crackers.
  4. Under the yellow fat you will find a hexagonal white pump. It is the heart of the crab and is considered to have a “cold” nature (寒 涼) in Chinese medicine. Discard.
  5. Use both hands to open the crab shell and enjoy the delicious crab roe and crab paste.

 

Wine Pairing

Typically, Shanghai crabs are best served with good quality Shao Hsing Hua Tiao Wine (紹興花雕酒), namely vintage 10 years and onwards. Don’t drink the ones for cooking.

Enjoy !!!

 

Information source and adapted from: Wah Kee Wing Cheong Ho & C!ty ‘Super

Thank you !

street food experience in basel herbstmesse (autumn fair) 2008

Herbstmesse in Peterplatz

Peterplatz, from the outside

Basel Herbstmesse or Herbschtmäss in Swiss German (Autumn Fair) is the oldest and largest fair in Switzerland (this is the 485th times this year). It is an event which not only kids look forward to but also for those who are young at heart who wants to have a bit of fun, go for a few rides, scream when coming down from the Power Tower; and for those who like street foods and local produce.

Being a non-Swiss, I am curious to know all kinds of food selling in the market stalls. This year I got to taste a few more things that I have not tried before. Thanks to Carmen for showing me all these goodies. So apart from just having sausages, raclette, Gebrannte Mandeln (almonds roasted in sugar), glühwein (mulled wine), Apfel most (Freshly non-filtered apple juice, warm or cold) and Magenbrot (spicy sweet bread), I have discovered a few more things this year.

Fresh Magenbrot

Fresh Magenbrot (Fresh Stomach Bread) contains stomach-friendly spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg flowers, it is said this is good for your body after having the heavy food from the food stalls and help your digestion.

 

Gebrannte Mandeln (Roasted Almonds coated with Sugar)

Gebrannete Mandeln (Almond roasted in Sugar)

 

Beckeschmuetz (the softest marshmallow in the world)

Beckeschmütz, these are the softest marshmallow in the world and my favorite. They are softer than you imagine. There is one stall where you can get white chocolate coated. They have to be consumed within 2 days maximum. I like buying a few home and eat as desserts.

 

Frisch Wacker Rosenkiechli

Frisch Wacker Rosenkiechli, these traditional cakes are in the shape of roses, they are very light in texture and sprinkled with icing sugar. I tried it 2 years ago but not this year, it’s not even possible to try a round of everything. Too heavy!

 

Kokosmakroenli (Coconut macaroons)

Kokosmakrönli (Coconut Macaroon)

 

Schoki Bananen (Milk or white chocolate coated bananas) with sesame base

Schoki Bananen, these are chocolate coated bananas, you can choose milk chocolate or white chocolate coated. This stall uses Lindt chocolate. The base of these bananas are coated with a layer sesames, they are simply lovely.

 

Cheese Stall

A cheese stall, small production not mass production cheese

 

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Kartoffelpuffer (Potato pancakes), this is a traditional snack originated by the Germans, Czechs and Austrians. I found several recipes in the internet which you can replicate at home.  A portion comes with 2 big pieces, make sure share with friends. There are 2 sauces you can choose to go with them: apple sauce or garlic sauce. I chose apple sauce. They were really crispy, tasted like a bit of my mom’s potato cakes (chinese version) that was the smell which had attracted me to try.

Kartoffelpuffer

This is how the Kartoffelpuffer look like.

 

I tried the Kaeaeskiechli (Swiss Quiche in small individual pieces)

Kääskiechli (Swiss quiche), I was told this one is very good, the size per piece is not too big so you can save up some space in your stomach to try other things

Schunggegipfeli (Left) & Epfel im Schloofrogg

Schùnggegipfeli (Left) & Èpfel im Schloofrògg (Right), more pastries, these are for next year to try out.

 

If you want to try more different types of food, you will have to visit the fair several times as one or two food items can fill you up very quickly. My excolleagues always get together at least one lunch gathering in the fair each year and have some fun together. It’s very refreshing to get some fresh air before getting your heads down again.

There are 6 places where the fair is happening at the same time but the one in Peterplatz has the longest history and I found the foodstuff there are better than the other sites. If you want to go for a few rides, then Messeplatz will fulfill your appetite. One thing I have noticed here is that most of the market stalls get the same spot each year, this makes it very convenient for us as we would know where to find our favorite stalls the following year.

There are just a few more days until the Herbstmesse ends this year, however, by the time you read this post I should have arrived Hong Kong and will stay for 2 weeks seeing my family and friends . So will have to wait until next year to discover more things …..

homemade chinese hotpot rice (煲仔飯)

Most of you would be familar with various types of hotpot: cheese fondue, fondue chinois, chinese hotpot, shabu shabu, sukiyaki, hot metal pot udon, Korean Stone bowl rice, etc. I like everything cooked in hotpot. My family and ex-colleagues all know I would never refuse to go for a chinese hotpot for dinner. Don’t ask me why but hotpot can make me happy. If you see me a bit down, a hotpot will immediately cheer me up.  Usually I do not like repeating having the same kind of food the next day, only hotpot will be an exceptional case. 

 

Today, I would like to share another typical hometown dish with you which is prepared in hot clay pot. It can be found in some small local restaurants in Hong Kong in the evening. You will find the cook cooking just outside the restaurants with several hot clay pots in a row at the same time, this also helps to attract people to eat in their restaurant. You can find them in places such as Jordan & Mongkok (in Kowloon side); Wanchai & Causeway Bay (in Hong Kong Island). I will take a photo when I go back to Hong Kong next month and post it here.

Claypot rice in Hong Kong

As promised: Claypot rice in Causeway Bay, taken on 13.11.08

 

If one day you visit Hong Kong and would like to try this hotpot rice in a nice restaurant, I can recommend Dynasty in Renaissance Kowloon Hotel, their dim sum during lunch time is also very good.

Hot clay pot rice is available only in winter, as the temperature goes down, people wants to stay warm, the hotpot rice is served hot with the pot in front of you so the rice will stay warm until you finish.

Yesterday I have served the chicken congee in the ceramic pot by bringing it to boil. Then I was thinking today what else can I do with this pot, then I recalled my mom has prepared the hotpot rice for us occasionally, she does not prepare this often as it requires a lot attention when cooking the rice, unlike with rice cooker, you can plug and go to do something else. Cooking hotpot rice requires patience and some experience on how to control the amount of heat. Although this was my first time but I was extremely satisfied with the outcome as I wanted to be.

With hotpot rice, in contrast to the congee I had yesterday, this time it does not matter that the rice smells a little burn*, this is absolutely normal as this gives this rice a distinct flavor when comparing to the rice cooked in rice cooker (e.g. my chinese risotto recipe). Once you have tried, you will know what I mean.

A truly authentic way should use a rustic chinese clay pot, however, the shop lady told me that it is only suitable for use on gas stoves and we are using electric stove here, so I have to use the Japanese ceramic pot instead but it really tasted very close to those eating-out. The pot itself did not come with a lid, so I used the lid of the saucepan instead. 

Serves 1-2

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 – 1 cup of long grain rice (depends on the size of your pot)
  • 100g minced pork
  • approx. 50g or two tbsp finely chopped Preserved Chinese Radish** (Fig. 6)
  • some chopped spring onion or schnittlauch (in English: Chives)
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce

Marinade:

  • 1/2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp of cooking oil
  • Pinch of white pepper

Method:

  1. Soak the preserved radish in warm water for 15 mins, this will make the radish less salty and wash away the chili powder. Then finely chopped the radish, you will need about 2 tbsp of this. 
  2. Marinade the mince pork with the above seasoning and then mix it the chopped preserved radish.
  3. Wash the rice
  4. Brush the pot with a little oil and then add the rice and appropriate amount of water as you use when using a saucepan or rice cooker. When using a clay or ceramic pot, you may need a tiny little bit more water than usual (also depends if you use gas or electic stove).
  5. Bring the rice to boil without the lid for about 5 mins,  in the meantime stir with a spoon for once or twice, this is to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom too early and may get burnt before it is cooked.
  6. When you see about three quarters of the water is absorbed, quickly spoon the meat on top of the rice. Then cover the pot with the lid and turn to medium heat (depends on the type of stove you have) and let it simmer for about another 5-8 mins (Fig.1) and then cook for another 8-10 mins or so in medium high heat. When you check and see the meat has turned the color and the liquid is all absorbed, this means it is cooked (Fig. 2). This part needs a bit self judgement, what I have described here a rough guide.
  7. You can sprinkle some spring onion or chives on top as garnish (Fig. 3). Drizzle a little dark soy sauce to enhance the taste (Fig. 4) and mix the meat and rice with a wooden spoon/ rice spatula. Serve immediately in rice bowls or directly from the pot if you like***.

 

*Just beware that this smell should only happen when the rice is completely cooked then you should move the pot from the stove.

** The Preseved Radish I bought is canned (Fig. 6), for the unused portion, you can keep them unsoaked in a bowl and in the fridge for later use. You can keep them for 1-2 weeks more.

***You can prepare some boiled green vegetables to make this a balanced meal.

Once you have grasp how to master this, you can try with other toppings you like such as chicken an d dried mushrooms. I will come back with more variations in the future.

how to prepare Chinese vegetable e.g. ‘Choi Sum’

To my surprise, my steam fish recipe has become the most popular post for over 2 weeks. The hit rate is way ahead (> x2)  than my 2nd top post.

This is very encouraging and pleasing indeed, it shows a lot of people are interested in chinese cooking. I have an impression that in Europe, e.g. Switzerland, among different Asian cuisines, Japanese and Thai food have become more and more popular but not really Chinese food.

This time I want to introduce some basics, a lot of you may have come across a lot of different chinese vegetables in the Chinese groceries but feel hesistant to buy because you have no clue how to prepare and cook them.
Choi Sum is one of the Chinese vegetables we eat very often in South of China.

Here is how Choi Sum would look like: those grown in Europe (Fig. 1a), the ones grown in China are much shorter (Fig. 2b) and sometimes you will see some yellow flowers on it (we do not eat the flowers, so pick them out).

Fig. 1 Choi Sum bought in Europe

Fig. 1a Choi Sum grown in Europe

Fig. 1b How Chow Sum looks like for those grown in China

Fig. 1b Chow Sum directly imported from China (bought in Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam)

This is how we prepare it at home before cooking :

  1. Half fill the kitchen sink with cold water
  2. Using your hand but not a knife, break the choi sum into pieces of about 7cm or 3 inches each and soak in the water (Fig.2) for 20mins or so  (I was taught that it does not taste as good if you cut into pieces using knife, I suppose this is mainly due to our tradition)
  3. Put your hand in the water and grab a small portion and give a few stir (circular movements)  in the water to remove any soil or insects. Pay more attention on the root ends that there is no soil stick to them.
  4. Repeat Step 3 if the vegetables is rather soiled.
  5. Drain the washed vegetable in a colander or sieve.
  6. You can now cook the vegetable, for example stir-fried with meat or simply boil them in a pan for 5 mins and add some soy sauce and oyster sauce on top (Fig. 3).

Note. At home, I always just boil the vegetables (even eat without sauces) for weight mangement purpose as Choi Sum contains a lot of fibre and my other dishes would contain oil already. It may not be the most tasty recipe but certainly the best method to keep fit.

 

Fig. 2 Choi Sum in pieces soaked in water

Fig. 2 Choi Sum in pieces soaked in water

 

Fig. 3 Boiled Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce

Fig. 3 Boiled Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce

The same method also applies to Pak Choi, a Chinese vegetable which is probably more familar to you.

early summer delight: “absolutely fabulous raspberry fool (Plan A)”

In Switzerland, it is quite common to have your own vegetable & fruit garden. I am naive in gardening but I am learning everyday. Last summer, we had our self-grown beans and they really tasted much better than those from the supermarkets. It was an exciting experience for a city girl like me to see how the beans are still hanging on the plant before they are picked (please see pictures at the bottom of page). We also had a grape tree which we had made bottles of grape syrup.  So organic ……… : )

 

as seen in #22396 TasteSpotting/ 24.09.08 & #5874 foodgawker/ 25.09.08

This year we had two harvests of raspberries so far , I have made an absolutely fabulous and easy-to-make raspberry fool  dessert from a recipe of my neighbour, Philly. She is also our gardening consultant, by the way. Last year, I tried it at her place that it was so unforgetable that I have to try out myself this year.

 

 

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 600g rasberry  (Fresh or Frozen)
  • 500g quark
  • 500g mascarpone
  • milk 80ml
  • 8 tbsp brown sugar

 

Method:

  1. If you use fresh raspberries, dissolve a few generous spoonfuls of salt in a big bowl of water, then place the berries in the bowl and leave them there for 20 mins or so to get rid of all the insects which may still be hidding in the fruits. 
  2. Discard the salt water and rince the berries in cold water. Reserve a small portion of the raspberries aside for garnish in the end.
  3. Mix the raspberries and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and let them to macerate for 10 mins.
  4. Chill in the fridge for 30 mins, then squash the rasberries with a fork. Your raspberry should look like a puree now. The beauty of this recipe is that it is so clean that you will not need a blender at all as the raspberries are so soft.
  5. Mix in the quark and mascapone with the puree, then slowly add in the milk. The purpose of the milk is to make the dessert less thick. You can adjust the thickness as you wish by controlling the amount of milk added. If there is a lot of juice come out of the raspberries, you can leave the milk out.
  6. You can now spoon the raspberry mixture evenly into your favorite glasses. Garnish with the reserved berries on top. 

 

Swiss Bündner Gerstensuppe (Barley Soup)

This is a Swiss soup very popular in the Swiss mountains. I take this soup for lunch every time when I go skiing. I like it a lot as it is tasty, good in fibre and nutritious, also the soup is not creamy which is suitable after doing some sports. Barley’s claim to nutritional fame is based on its being a very good source of fiber and selenium, and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese. Not sure if it is true of not, barley is also said to be good for skin beauty. I think it is because if your digestion is healthy, it will in turn improves your skin condition too.

I like the soup so much that I want to try it at home. This is a recipe from my Swiss friend, Caroline.

 

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 big onion (or 2 small ones)
  • 300g carrots
  • 1 leek column
  • 1 small celery
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 100g barley, soaked and drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250g smoked ham (Würfeli, if you can get)
  • 2 pieces of Bündner raw or smoked raw bacon (optional)*
  • 100g of anhydrous haricot beans
  • 1 cup of chicken or beef stock
  • 2.5 litres of water

 

Method:

  1. Soak the barley and beans separately in large bowls of water for 4-6 hours.
  2. Chop finely the onion, leek, celery and carrots.
  3. Sauté the chopped onion, leek, carrots and celery in a big pan with olive oil until lightly soften. Add the smoked ham and sauté for 5 mins in medium heat.
  4. Transfer the sautéd ingredients into a soup pot and add in the anhydrous beans, barley and bay leaves.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock and water and bring to boil for 5 mins, then simmer in medium heat for 2 hours.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, ready to serve.

* I opt-out the bacon personally because I want to keep the soup low-fat. 

 

 

peameal bacon sandwich: the closest to ‘ham’burger ???

Last week when I was in Toronto, I have a few good hours in St Lawrence Market. It was good that I have picked Saturday as this day you see most people and the atmosphere is just great. On Saturdays, starting from 5am, there is a farmers’ market which sell fresh food directly from their farms. As a food lover, I was just fascinated to see all kinds of specialty food stores. Rube’s is one of my most favorite stores, they have all types of flours and rice. Click for full photo album

I would like to highlight the peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery  which I had for lunch that day. I read from the internet that you must visit this bakery and I was wondering what so special about it. When I passed by I saw many people just sat at the bench eating the sandwiches. Normally I don’t like bacon very much but seeing so many people trying and with curiosity I bought one and sat on the bench and ate it there. Surprisingly, it really tasted delicious, the peameal bacon was tender, not salty nor oily at all and the warm soft bun tasted unique. The portion was just right, didn’t feel stuffed. Since normal hamburger does not contain ham but beef, at least the peameal bacon is from pork and its color looks like ham. Therefore in my opinion, I would think the peameal bacon sandwich should be considered to be the closest to hamburger. If you visit Toronto, this is surely a MUST-TRY food item!!!