Friday, June 06, 2008

Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Homestretch

Another dinner etc etc etc I minced some ginger etc etc etc and then I heated peanut oil and deep fried some etc etc etc and Owen didn't eat any etc etc etc and then someone had a tantrum etc etc etc thus and such was delicious etc etc etc

The litany of dinners continues. I need to figure out how to write about all this -- cookbooks, cookbooks embedded in a life -- without just describing mealtimes. Ideas?

This was our penultimate Hunanese dinner a la Fuchsia Dunlop, and my father drove down from Petaluma to partake. He is one of the gamest eaters I know which was fortunate as there were some mighty challenges on the menu. 

Let's start with Dunlop's stir fried zucchini with salty duck egg yolks. It was. . . what is the word I am looking for. . . repulsive? Yes, I believe that will do. The photograph of this dish in Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook is incredibly seductive, slivers of green-skinned zucchini cloaked in a nubbly gold crust. Gentle reader, I will spare you the close-up of my rendition. 

"Salted duck egg yolks are a fabulous ingredient," Dunlop gushes, "with a rich umami taste that enhances the most mundane of vegetable ingredients."

Truly dreadful.

I was also irresistibly drawn to the Scraped Jelly Ribbons in Hot Sesame Sauce on the strength of that name. Some people would have the opposite response, but I love both sesame and slippery noodle-like dishes. To make this one, you submerge brittle, papery sheets of Tianjin bean starch in hot water, watch them collapse into sort of rubbery translucent noodles, then tear into pieces and toss with a pungent sauce. Tasty but weird. Or weird but tasty. Haven't decided yet.  

There was more, but the checklist of dishes is boring. Isn't it? I'll just mention the entirely successful General Tso's chicken  -- fire-engine red, just like you get in a restaurant! -- and the Hunanese Lotus seeds with rock sugar

"Not good," my father said after his first bite of lotus seed. Then he kept eating, which was how he was raised. A compulsive plate cleaner.

This dessert really wasn't good. It tasted of nothing but sugar, despite the starchy lotus seeds, feathery silver fungus (completely bland) and garish wolfberries floating around in the syrup.

That said, it was rather beautiful, don't you think?


  1. hmm, i don't find this boring at all. that said, maybe if you feel like it's going to be boring for you or for us to tell about one particular meal, you don't have to do it. just talk about whatever is on your mind, related or unrelated to the book (but probably related) and then just bullet the things you cooked at the bottom of the post with brief commentary. that way you won't lose the thread of this being a cooking blog, but you won't have to go through that particular exercise.

  2. that's a good idea, Balabanian. as usual. thank-you!