Creamed Corn with Onion and Pepper

Friday, May 30, 2008

My early experiences cooking and eating corn in China were very disappointing - the stuff was not sweet at all. 'Feed corn! - at home we'd give this to animals, not people', I thought. I had forgotten the principle of extreme freshness - with corn, the sugars turn to starches once picked. If you have corn in your garden, for example, it's best to start water boiling and then go out to pick the corn so you can cook it as soon as possible to preserve max sweetness. In China I eventually learned to buy corn only from the farmer's market, taste a kernel before buying, and then cook the stuff as soon as I got home.

Most people have a very specific idea of what creamed corn should be; mine is the basic cream corn from a can. One of my sisters had a deep love for the stuff when we were little. I wanted to make something far removed from the childhood memory though, and try the method that uses the corn's natural starch to thicken the sauce. I also added some onion and pepper for flavour. I used milk but you can definitely use real cream. This is a labour intensive recipe suitable for one or two people; it's a bit too much work for a crowd.

Take two very fresh cobs of corn and run a knife down the centre of each row of kernels so that they split. Cut/scrape the corn off of the cob, working over a containter to catch the juice. Mince a tablespoon of onion and half a tablespoon of hot green pepper and saute in 2 tbs (less if desired) butter with 1 tsp salt til tender; add corn and saute until just starting to soften. Add two thirds of a cup of milk and simmer til milk is thickened; taste for salt. Main for one (serve with biscuits and sliced fresh tomatoes) or side for two.

Bedspread Noodles

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My friends and I were extremely lucky that nobody was hurt or inconvenienced more than a few nights' worth of open air sleeping, but it's been a rough couple of weeks since the earthquake and we are still wobbled by aftershocks. (The water in the water cooler is moving as I type.)

Bedspread noodles are comfort food for after a disaster - wide sheets of noodle dough in broth with the usual suspects for toppings - suan cai, beef, plain or spicy stewed chicken, and others. Ribs are shown. When I took the picture I had no idea that there were stewed dried peas hiding in the sheets and the combination was unpretentious and perfect. I almost felt like I was eating an Italian pasta and bean soup. Chinese name: 铺盖面 (pu1gai4 mian).

Winter Melon and Fire Leg

Friday, May 16, 2008

Winter melon has become one of my favourite vegetables since moving to China. It has very little colour or flavour but the texture is amazing. It is one of the best things to cook in a hot pot, and I always find myself scanning the menu for winter melon dishes. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a dish of winter melon and ham (火腿, literally 'fire leg') but the ham ended up being a spam like substance that I picked out. This is something more like the dish I was anticipating.

Slice a pound and a half or so of winter melon thinly and sliver a couple tablespoons of bacon or salt pork with about one tablespoon of minced onion. Cook the bacon in a big frying pan or wok until the fat is rendered (if you are using a less fatty cut of meat, use oil) and add the winter melon. Add a half cup or so of broth and simmer until winter melon is tender. Serves 2 over rice.