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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Everyone knows that some noodle dishes are better with a squeeze of kalamansi, that's just the way it is. What's surprising is that the Italians and Northern Europeans, on the whole, cannot grasp this truth.
Maybe they're just dense?

Here in California, kalamansi is rather rare, so we make do with Key limes or regular limes.

Not quite as aromatic as kalamansi, with a different fragrance. Still, excellent as the corrolary to hot salty sweet, and valuable as a foil for fatty pork, chicharrones, and avocado.


On the whole, noodles are nearly unthinkable without a wedge of lime.

Which, alas, is sadly missing even in the best of Chinese noodle shops. Given that the Cantonese aren't as heavily into chili peppers and savoury shrimp paste as the Vietnamese, Thais, and Indonesians, this isn't too surprising. Still, a plate of beef chow fun (乾炒牛河) or char kway teow (炒粿條) would be immeasurably brightened by a few drops of juice.
Maybe Cantonese people are too European?

Broad rice noodles wokfried with pork fat, shrimp paste, chicken (豉油雞) or pork chunks (燒肉) and oysters (蠔仔), chili paste, bean sprouts, Chinese chives, dash sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis) and often, an egg scrambled in. Add cilantro, and a hefty squeeze of lime. Delicious!

Also deadly, just like a bacon cheese burger.
High fat, low on the veg scale.

You can omit the noodles and land-based proteins from the pan, and simply fry up an omelette with oysters in the pork fat. Again, sweet soy sauce, chili paste, plus Chinese chives and beansprouts.
Dump that on top of your plate of noodles.
With cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Being somewhat subject to gout, which oysters will not benefit, I tend to avoid most shellfish types. Sardines and salmon are perfectly allright, however, and fatty pork is no problem at all.


Imagine. In the antique centre of Banh Luong City, the spring rain settles the dust and amplifies all smells. It is early morning, the pathways and streets are still wet, but by mid day the sun will have dried the ground. From a shop front eatery in the central district, where the tourists are already congregating, the smell of noodles fried with pork chunks, fish, and eggplant, wafts out, luring in the passers-by. There is a clang of quick wok work, then the explosive sound of soup stock being splashed in to sizzle, loosening the pan-crusties, and the resultant fragrant hodge podge is alacritously dished out. Shredded ginger, pickled garlic, and cilantro.
A sambal made strong with fermented shrimp paste on the side.
Several wedges of fresh cut lime, and sweet soy sauce.
Strong tea with condensed milk to wash it down.

From a nearby park, there is the smell of Melati (茉莉花 "mugri"), as a very subtle suggestion at the edge of the senses.

Being a barbarian, I had a cigar afterwards.

Oh, and I made it at home. The ancient city of Banh Luong doesn't actually exist, it's really a San Francisco of the mind. But the fried noodles and key limes are real, so is the strong sweet tea.
Bitter, fragrant. Savoury, spicy.
Sour. And sweet.


fan: powder, rice flour. 米粉 mai fan: rice flour, rice noodles. 粿條 gwo tiu (kwei tiao): "cake strips", a type of Teochew and Hokkien thick rice noodle. 沙河粉 saa ho fan: river noodles. 米頗 mai po: two words which, when combined as one character, are the Chữ Nôm (字喃) glyph for phở (越南粉); a Vietnamese noodle dish. 瀨粉 laai fan: a type of Cantonese noodle.
min: wheat flour noodles. 麵線 min sin: thread noodle. 麵薄 min pok: flat egg noodle. 伊麵 yi min: chewy noodles for certain fried dishes. 撈麵 lo min: wheat flour noodles for pan-frying and saucing. 蝦子麵 haa chai min: dried thin noodles made with shrimp roe for flavour.

乾炒牛河 gon chaau ngau ho: dry-fried ox river; fried rice-stick noodles with beef and scallion, a very Cantonese dish.
炒粿條 chaau gwo tiu ('char kway teow'): a popular noodle dish in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia; fat, small shellfish, cake noodles, bean sprouts, sweet soy, and chili.
正宗炒粿條 jing jung chaau gwo tiu: orthodox (original) char kway teow; cake noodles stir-fried with whatever is cheapest yet tastiest, the biggest bang for your buck.
豉油雞 si yau kai: soy-sauce chicken, usually chopped through the bone into chunks.
燒肉 siu yiuk: roast meat; crust-on pork belly cooked with high heat.
蠔仔 hou chai: small oysters, being nutritious molluscs of several different closely related groups characterized by a calcified valve .
蠔仔煎 hou chai jin, 蠔仔餅 hou chai beng, 蠔烙 hou lok: oyster omelette, a very popular casual food originating in the Minnan culture zone in Southern China, popularized wherever Hokkien and Teochow speakers have settled, as well as several Cantonese-speaking areas.

番龍城内朝雨新 faan long seng-noi chiu yü san: barbarian dragons walls within morning rain new; "inside the city of barbarian thunder-lizards, the early rain is fresh/freshens".
茉莉花 mut lei faa: jasmine, jasminum sambac. The Chinese name replicates the Sanskrit term 'mallika'. Native originally to an area in the Himalayas, now cultivated and naturalized all over South-East Asia. Melati is the Indonesian name, much used in the Netherlands for its lovely recollection of sanctity, grace, and purity, the virtues of womanhood and the new bride. In the Philippine islands it is called sampaguita, where it is the national flower.

Please note that the pronunciation of the Chinese characters above is in a toneless approximation of the language of Canton. My command of Hokkien has faded much since I left Holland, alas.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


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