Chao Shou

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chao shou is a signature Chengdu xiaochi, or snack. This is a basic, classic bowl of chao shou – delicate pork dumplings with a whiff of ginger folded into a hat shapes and floating in a bowl of nearly opaque broth. The broth's whiteness comes from long simmering of bones, and it is often broth that distinguishes a good bowl of chao shou from the lesser versions. On the side is a bowl of plain boiled cabbage and a dish of pao cai, preserved vegetable (cabbage in this case). In cooler weather, chao shou makes a perfect lunch or snack. This being Sichuan, the dumplings often get the spicy treatment and are served with toppings such as stewed chicken pieces (mostly neck and bone), or simply by tossing the cooked dumplings into a pool of aromatic chili oil - hong you chao shou. A bowl of chao shou topped with aromatic stewed beef and cilantro (niu rou chao shou):

Chao shou topped with stewed ribs (pai gu chao shou) was my favourite version until I discovered suan cai chao shouchao shou with sour cabbage. Both suan cai and this particular pao cai are cabbage preserved with salt, chili, and sometimes Sichuan peppercorns, but they are very different in character. Suan cai tastes like it has been preserved much longer - darker, limp shreds that are rather mild in flavour. Pao cai is quite crunchy and tangy. A bowl of suan cai –topped chao shou served with boiled cabbage and a little dish of pao cai is a revelation of the flavours and textures that can be coaxed from this plain Jane vegetable.

Near my house is a little place selling lao ma chao shou, a Chongqing specialty. The ma character means numbing and I am guessing the name refers to the effects of Sichuan pepper. The food of Chongqing is, if anything, even more incendiary and enamored of Sichuan pepper that that of Chengdu. The server warned me that I was ordering something a little spicy but I waved off his concern and received a little bowl of chao shou with cabbage, boiled peanuts, and a topping of scarlet oil. I like the pepper's tingly effect in moderation but don’t enjoy feeling like my mouth and throat are closing up with no feeling. The amount in this bowl of chao shou was definitely in the respiratory arrest category.


Shoe shiners often set up shop beside these little outdoor places to eat and make rounds among the tables, offering potential customers a pair of slippers to wear while they take your shoes to be shined during your lunch.

9 comments:

wheatlessbay said...

Hi, I have a question: have you done any home pickling of cabbage or root vegetables? We have a bottle of tianjin in the fridge here, and when we finish it I'd like to try what Fuchsia Dunlop calls her si chuan pao cai recipe (I take it the name just means Sichuan pickled vegetable). She says root vegetables can be used as a mix. I think I'd do cabbage leaves on their own. I was unaware of the suan cai v. pao cai distinction before your post, and I'll have to learn more; thank you for that.

Pepper said...

Haven't tried it at home...there are tons of varieties of preserved vegetables here, some of which I do not even recognize.

wheatlessbay said...

Thanks for the reply. I can imagine there's little need to make at home what you can buy anywhere. I'll come back here and report once I've tried it.

(BTW, I've lived in Edmonton, too.)

Anonymous said...

This isn't really a food related question. I'm here in Beijing and I'm using blogger...do you ever have problems viewing your blog or reading comments?
For the last month I haven't been able to, yet every so often I can, like today...I just wanted to know if you had any idea's. Thanks

Pepper said...

Thanks for the head's up that we are not blocked today - commenting is a painful, twenty minute procedure otherwise, for the reasons you mention. Please send non-post-related questions to my email, which you can find on my profile.

krysia said...

Hi I'm really not trying to sound retarded, but I've been to your profile and cannot find you email.....

Pepper said...

now fixed, thanks again. It is pepper_mil@hotmail.com anyhow. As for your question, here behind the Great Firewall you need to know how to use a p-r-o-x-y. Not all support all features of blogger, and they also get blocked, but that is life.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone know how to make Chengdu style Pao Chi? I have a craving for it since I have been back in the states and have no idea on how to make it! Thanks for any help!

Jack's Picture Blog said...

i think "lao ma" means "old mother".