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The Good Cooks of Sichuan!

In May, we whipped up a 6-course Chinese meal, with the help of Land of Plenty, another fab expat cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop.

Check out our special foodscapes page for close-up images of some of our favorite ingredients! If you're looking for images from previous episodes, visit our archives!



That's a Wrap


The big hit of the evening was the steamed pork wrapped in lotus leaves. The large, fan shaped leaves are sold dry and are slightly crumbly.

The leaves are soaked for about ten minutes in very hot water to make them more pliable. This process releases a sweet, delicate aroma of tea.

Pork belly, fatback, call it what you will, this cut of meat is what makes your bacon when smoked. Fortunately for us, pork belly is as integral a part of Midwest cooking as it is in French and Chinese cuisines.

The fatback is cut into small strips and marinated a mixture of soy sauce, fermented rice wine, Shaoxing rice wine, sweet bean paste, red fermented bean curd, brown sugar, scallions and ginger.

Time to assemble! The meat has been coated in rice that has been toasted with spices and coarsely ground (check out our foodscapes page for a closer look). The meat will be joined in a lotus wrapper by frozen soybeans, slivers of ginger, and bits of pickled chili pepper.

Fuchsia recommended that we cut equilateral triangles, five inches on each side, to wrap the ingredients in. We did that, and if you think that looks too small, you'd be right. Fortunately we had plenty of lotus leaf left to cut out larger triangles.

Stephen deftly assembles a lotus wrapped package of deliciousness.

The genius of the bamboo steamer. Each layer of the steamer is filled with lotus leaf bundles. Then, the entire assembly is set in a wok atop a shallow pool of boiling water. Steam is forced up through the layers, in this case for two hours. The pork belly becomes literally melt-in-your-mouth tender, and packed with the spiciness of ginger and pickled chili. The ample fat in the meat, coupled with the cooked rice meal and slightly crunchy soybeans give this dish a unique and wonderful mouthfeel.



Rainy Day Shopping


Stacey sporting her drowned rat look after traipsing about Chinatown.

Stephen's hood lends him an air of mystery.

Even the street signs have subtitles!

Mr. Chicken was sold to us with head and feet attached.

A hotel pan of chicken feet in the butcher section of Richwell Market.

Nestled among the chicken eggs, were also these of quail (as well as duck, fresh and aged).

Ingredients for our Chinese meal included those common in western groceries, as well as a few staples of the Sichuan pantry, like:
  • Sichuan peppercorns
  • Shaoxing rice wine
  • sesame oil
  • dried chiles
  • black Chinese vinegar
  • soy sauce
  • fermented black beans
  • chili bean paste
  • scallions, ginger and garlic