Sauerkraut, Pork, and Mashed Potato Fried Rice

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Another lost in translation version of fried rice, based on some takeout leftovers - the Chinese version of sauerkraut, suan cai, cooked with strips of pork and also the Chinese version of mashed potatoes - tu dou ni, or potato 'mud'. (If you go to a Western restaurant in China, this is how they translate mashed potatoes on the menu but it is a very different dish from the Western version.) Tu dou ni is really, really good, and like a big, loose, greasy potato pancake - mushy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Potatoes are eaten as vegetables more often than as a starch here so it's pretty common to eat them with rice.

I made this by sauteing about one cup of leftover suan cai rou si with a few tablespoons of tu do ni until everything is warm. There is more than enough oil and seasoning in Chinese takeout container sludge that you don't need anything else. Then pile one cup per person of cold cooked rice into your pan and push the other stuff on top. Heat til rice gets crispy and then mix everything together til things are heated through.

And if anyone in Western regions tries this with leftover choucroute garnie and roasted potatoes or leftover latkes, let us know!

Crossing the Bridge Noodles

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Crossing the bridge noodles 过桥米线 (guò qiáo mĭxiàn) is an elaborate chicken noodle soup which hails from the southern province of Yunnan. There are many stories of how the dish originated, but the most common describes a scholar who once isolated himself on an island to prepare for an important examination. His wife would bring him rice noodles and other morsels in a rich chicken broth, with a layer of fat on top to keep the soup warm until she reached him. The soup is perfect for slurping up in cooler weather or during flu season. Locally you can order simple versions for eight to twelve yuan (buck to a buck fifty) or more elaborate versions for up to forty yuan, depending on the number and type of stir-ins.

The server brings you a bowl of bubbling chicken broth along with a separate bowl of cooked rice noodles and many little dishes of stir-ins, which often include raw and cooked chicken, quail eggs, raw fish, white fungus, thinly sliced pork, ham, lettuce and tomato, scallions, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and –best of all - a couple pieces of crispy breaded chicken skin. Some servers will unceremoniously dump the ingredients into the broth as soon as they bring it to you, but many people have their own favourite sequence of stir-ins as they concoct the perfect bowl of soup. I like to start with the eggs, chicken, fish, and mushrooms and make sure they are totally cooked before adding the vegetables and fungus. The noodles always go in last. To those of us who grew up with the idea of chicken noodle soup as soothing home cooking, a bowl of crossing the bridge noodles feels exotic and comforting at the same time.