At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Saturday, October 05, 2013


After spending all of Saturday in Marin County comforting the weeping and delirious cigar smokers (such sensitive souls!), I usually don't get back to the city till after seven-thirty. Golden-Gate transit drops me off on Van Ness, and I skip around the corner to await the number one California bus at Clay, which will deliver me to Chinatown close to eight o'clock.
I've been in Suburbistan all day, I need food.

Unfortunately, there are only half-a-dozen or so places still open at that time. Excluding "Mandarin", "Szechuan", "Hunan", "Gourmet", "Peking", and "Palace", of course. Which aren't real food. Not in Chinatown.

A man needs Cantonese food to recover from Marin.

Nothing fancy, just good. Maybe even po-chai faan.

Yeah, I suppose I could cook dinner myself, but I've been shushing the emotionally fragile stogey maniacs all day, and I'm a wee bit tired.
I would rather someone else made dinner.

[Cantonese food, random sampling: 紅燒鮑翅、 高湯焗龍蝦伊面、 糯米雞、 燒鷄、 燒鴨、 煎蠔仔餅、 蒜茸蒸扇貝、 燒三層肉、 瑤柱賽螃蟹、 野菌炒魚肚、 滑蛋蝦仁、 豬潤燒賣、 紅燒鮮蟹肉生翅、 清蒸大海星班、 西洋菜湯、 南乳蓮藕燜花肉、 豉椒炒蜆、  鹹蛋蒸肉餅、 番茄炒蛋、 豉汁蒸鱔、 清蒸魚、 叉燒、 蒜蓉炒菜、 蒸水蛋、 柱侯牛腩、 老火湯、 蒸魚、 白灼蝦、 薑蔥龍蝦、 雲吞麵、 牛腩麵。
Po-chai faan, 煲仔飯: 肉餅煲仔飯、 臘味煲仔飯、 窩蛋牛肉煲仔飯、 排骨煲仔飯、 蒸雞臘腸煲仔飯、 田雞煲仔飯、 咖喱牛腩煲仔飯、 煲仔鷄飯。
Just paste any one of these terms into your browser for lovely pictures.]

I usually end up having a mixed something over rice. The selection for the single diner is rather limited, unfortunately, and I do not wish to order more than I can eat.

But I'd love to have simple home-style food.


These five are the absolute quintessence of home-cooking.

Steamed meat patty 蒸猪肉餅 jing chu yiuk beng
Steamed chicken chunks 蒸滑雞 jing gwat kai
Stir-fried mustard green 炒油菜 chaau yau choi
Stir-fried baby bokchoy 炒白菜 chaau pak choi
Steamed omelette 蒸水蛋 jing seui daan

Two or three of these, with rice, and a bowl of either 老火湯 (lou fo tong: old-fire soup), or 西洋菜湯 (sai yeung choi tong: watercress soup), you've got yourself a splendid meal.

[Soup; 湯 tong: most Cantonese home-style soups start with a mixed broth made of pork bones and fresh chicken, with veggies or herbs thrown in for flavor, colour, and nutritive or tonifying benefit. Long simmering (老火) is often key. They are served by themselves or alongside meals to aid digestion and provide liquid, as often beverages are not on the table. But to my mind, huge amounts of tea are also essential. Hydration, and stimulation.]

Cantonese home cooking is quick, convenient, and comforting.
Clean taste, straightforward preparation, honest ingredients.
How utterly easy to make, and how very delightful to eat!

蒸猪肉餅: Steamed meat patty is incredibly easy to prepare.
Take enough ground pork for two people (about one third to half a pound), mix it with a little sesame oil, teaspoon of rice wine or sherry, and a touch of soy, let it stand for a while, then flatten it out onto a plate with ginger slivers strewn over, and steam it till done. Which will be between ten and twenty minutes, depending on the thickness.
Often either some sliced dry fish (咸魚 haahm yü), or a salty egg (鹹蛋 haahm daan), or other fragrant savoury additions, are arranged on top, to by their aroma and depth add appeal. But really, you could just add a teaspoon of shrimp-paste to the meat before steaming, and it would be delicious!

蒸滑雞: Jing gwat kai is also simple, and the process is similar, albeit with the addition of a teaspoon or two of corn starch rubbed into the half pound of chunked chicken before letting it sit for while to absorb the minor touches of sherry and soy sauce. Adding a little shredded ginger is optional.
It should be steamed for about fifteen minutes, then garnished with minced scallion.
The cornstarch makes it slick (滑) and velvety.

炒油菜: Stirfried mustard green has a delightful bitterness and crunch; blanch it before tossing it in the hot wok. A dash of oyster sauce and a splash of stock to reduce is quite optional.

炒白菜: Stirfried baby bokchoy does not need any blanching, as it will be sweet and toothsome with only a little time in the pan.

蒸水蛋: The steamed omelette is luxurious. But remarkably cheap. Two eggs. Four tablespoons water, or somewhat more. Dash of sesame oil, drop of soy, pinch of ground white pepper. And whatever chopped or rehydrated ingredients you think would be suitable, but don't overdo it, the essence is simplicity. Beat the eggs, water, and whatever else. Pour into a broad bowl, steam for about ten minutes till set.
Some minced chive or cilantro looks lovely on top.

Eh, add few thick slivers of lahp cheung (臘腸), preserved pork belly (臘肉), ham (火腿), or black mushroom, to one or other dish, for a little extra excitement.

Sometimes, on days when I'm not babysitting the cheroot-whackers in the wilds of Marin, I may cook variations of these. Over a small bowl of rice-stick noodle they make a perfect lunch. But really, they're so much more wonderful to come home to, and it's a pity that restaurants don't do half or third portions, so that one might have a bit of variety and happily peck around among the lovely things in front of one.

And I never do 老火湯 anymore.

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