Farming in the Skies: Container gardening in the hutongs

imageIn this grey city, I find myself longing for my own patch of greenery and for years have kept as many pots and pans of green plants as I could squeeze into my flat. But in the face of China’s food safety fears, why not try a little backyard farming? Novel, greenery that’s not just ornamental, but that you can eat.  Thus armed with the prospect of growing some luscious little cherry tomatoes and pesticide-free greens to munch on, we rolled up our sleeves, I conquered my fear of heights (no rails up here after all) and transformed my tiny rooftop into a container garden. Continue reading

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You say Crawfish, I say Crayfish (or Little Dragon Shrimp 小龙虾?)

imageWhatever you choose to call them, crayfish, crawfish, crawdads, or my personal favorite, the Chinese “little dragon shrimp (xiaolongxia 小龙虾)” these fine fellows are a staple of summertime eating here in Beijing.  Along Guijie, the masses are camped out on stools, munching on complimentary sunflower seeds as they await their turn to chow down and rip apart their own crate of xiaolongxia (not to be confused with the large dragon shrimp – dalongxia (大龙虾) the lobster).

The Sichuanese crawfish (麻辣小龙虾) is stir-fried in heaps of oil via the wok, with a mass of spices including the infamous numbing peppercorns (花椒), chilies, soybean paste, ginger, garlic, leeks and cooked in mere minutes it’s then served in a giant bowl as a mass of pokey claws and chili-oil glossed tails. (Good Rasa Malaysia recipe here.) Continue reading

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BBQ Magic: Recipe for Sichuan Pepper Lamburger 麻辣羊肉汉堡包

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It’s Spring in Beijing, and for all of 2 weeks, we will get to enjoy gentle breezes, willow fluff in the air, and the pleasant shock of seeing our city carpeted with greenery once more. It’s also the start of BBQ season in the hutongs. This mala roubing (麻辣肉饼)lamburger was the genius brainchild of a series of mishaps last BBQ season that just begged to be repeated in earnest this year to kick off this Summer’s BBQ Season. Continue reading

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Recipe: Breakfast of Champions, Shrimp ‘N Grits

Shrimp. Grits. Shrimp ‘n grits was perhaps the best discovery of my jaunt to the American South. (Aside from the po’ boys, the
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gumbo, the sweet tea – oh, the sweet tea!, beignets, … and the BBQ – oh, the BBQ!). Alright, so shrimp ‘n grits was the best breakfast discovery. As the story goes, shrimping boats would have bags of grits on deck, and after shrimping all night would boil some up fresh shrimp and a pot of grits for breakfast after they pulled back into the dock. Regardless of history, I say breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s all scrumptious. Continue reading

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Nanjing Haochi

How many photos of curing meat does one blog need? Even as a bona fide SF faux-flexitarian these days, one cannot help but be impressed by sausage stalactites.

One half of Beijing Haochi came back to Beijing and promptly decamped to a couple other cities for flying visits. Not planned on the

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Nanjing itinerary was this market of meat and hairy crabs (dazhaxie 大闸蟹), which just goes to show what you can discover on the way to looking for a pair of sneakers, nor did I eat the famous Nanjing specialty of duck blood with cellophane noodles (yaxue fensi 鸭血粉丝), paired with a bowl of crispy puffed rice, to be cracked up and sprinkled upon the herbally and healthy soup, where presumably they soften and lend textural interest. My stomach wasn’t too excited about this after an unpleasant run-in with the fleetingly delicious greasybomb of a mala xiangguo, although I understand the soup is excellent for tonification. Continue reading

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…They’re Back: Shaanxi Noodles (油泼扯面) at Miss Little Shan (小陕娃)

When Yellow River Noodles (黄河陕西面名小吃) at Meishuguan shut down and

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got chai-ed, it left a sad little hole in my heart (or stomach?). Their biang biang mian (or 油泼扯面 you po che mian) was the inspiration for Beijing Haochi, and our culinary sleuthing and epic blog posts (four!) on this delight was born from our adoration of Yellow River’s chewy, slippery, fragrant noodle deliciousness (see ode to noodles, post on restaurants, recipe for noodles, and recipe for biang biang mian at home.)

Continue reading

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Smack that Cuke Up: Smashed Cucumbers with Garlic (Pai Huang Gua 拍黄瓜)

The two scant weeks of Beijing's Spring flew by in a wink and though we are barely into May, its 30 degrees outside and I think I can safely say it's summer in the 'Jing. Summer means stifling heat, sweaty days (and nights), and the start of my 3 month craving for only cold, refreshing foods. And right at the top of my list of favorite summertime foods is the marvelously simple yet ridiculously good pai huang gua (派黄瓜) or smashed cucumbers. Continue reading

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Best of 2011: A Feast at Blue Hill at Stone Barns

…And we're back! My utter lack of computer savvy and a malware scare led to few months hiatus of the blog, but I managed to learn me just enough internets to patch things up. In celebration, I can finally write this post originally intended to go up at the new year to commemorate the best meal of the last year. Now, in 2011 I had many a fine meal in Beijing, all sorts of yummy street snacks in Burma, and binged on Cowgirl Creamery cheese in San Francisco. But if I had to pick the most memorable, it would be the spectacular 8-course-with-wine-pairing “Farmer's Feast” at Blue Hill at Stone Barns last fall. Yes, a mildly pretentious name for what is usually called dinner, but in this case, it was simply that, a feast from the farm. Continue reading

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Nothing Says Winter Like Two Tons of DaBaicai (大白菜 Cabbage)

Nothing else in Beijing declares winter like the arrival of the city’s piles ‘o cabbage. My first year here, I thought snowfall on Old Hallow’s Eve heralded the dreaded Beijing winter; my second, no snow in November, but wretchedly freezing winds told me it was time to haul out my down jackets; this year, it’s mid-November, and – dare I say it? – it’s still relatively mild (i.e. I am not clamouring for government heating yet). What has yet to fail me though, as a marker of the season, is the sight, and smell, of the city’s hoard of government-subsidized cabbage. Continue reading

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Travels in San Francisco: Ode to Food One Cannot Eat in Beijing (or, Farewell Christine!)

Apologies for the long hiatus readers, life has been a whirl of activity of late. I managed to escape the last of Beijing's summer sweats with a long sojourn in the U.S. The good news is that while we didn't blog it, I got to eat some amazing meals with Christine. The bad news is that these mealsoffood were in San Francisco, where Christine has returned in pursuit of that pesky phD. And so, the Beijing Haochi team is down one, and we have lost the brains behind the operation, not to mention our food stylist extraordinaire. In the spirit of viewing the glass as half full, we did get to pig out in my favorite food city in America. In honor of Christine, this post is entitled “Ode to Food One Cannot Eat in Beijing.” Continue reading

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