Indian Mixed Vegetables

Must try this some day. I can imagine how good it smells and tastes.

Gyoza, Jiaozi, Momo

They are all inspired by Chinese dumplings. Jiaozi typically consists of a ground meat and/or vegetable (usually cabbage or chive) filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together or by crimping.

Jiaozi

The dumplings can be steamed, boiled or fried. They are then dipped in a mixture of chilli paste, soya sauce and black vinegar before they are eaten. Personally, I would add some ginger shreds as well. The fried version is somewhat more complex. For guotie, the way to cook it is first to fry one side of the dumpling in oil until it is golden brown. Then water is poured into the frying pan and the lid placed to allow steam to cook the rest of the dumpling. Crisp on one side, chewy on the other sides. Marvellous.

Within China itself, there are numerous variations in shapes, sizes, textures of jiaozi. This makes Japanese gyoza and Chinese jiaozi difficult to differentiate. The Nepalese also have their version of dumplings and this is the famous momo that is popular all over Nepal.

Nepalese momos normally don’t contain any vegetables. Most of them are stuffed with ground “buff” (buffalo meat), mutton or chicken. Shown here is a plate of chicken momo I had in Kathmandu. The dipping sauce is curry-ish. The skins tend to be thick.

Like Chinese dumplings, momos can be steamed or fried. Like tea, Chinese dumplings have taken the region by storm since ancient times. Easily stored, easy to cook, they can be taken as a snack or a meal any time of the day. Ingenious invention.


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Cross The Bridge Noodles 过桥米线

Cross Bridge Noodles

Food critic Chua Lam once remarked that the technique used in Cross the Bridge Noodles is primitive. What are Cross the Bridge Noodles?

Legend had it that during the Qing Dynasty in Yunnan, China, a scholar isolated himself on a little islet in the middle of a lake in order to concentrate on his studies. His wife decided to make some tasty noodles for him. The dish had to be hot and the ingredients had to be cooked just right. So she prepared some piping hot soup and insulated it with a thick layer of oil. The noodles, thin slices of meat and vegetables, would be kept separate while she travelled to where her husband was sudying. From the shore of the lake, she had to cross a wooden bridge to get to the islet.

When she arrived, she would dunk the ingredients in the hot soup. With just the right amount of heat, the noodles and meat were never overcooked and tasted very good. After the scholar had passed his imperial examinations, he attributed his success to his wife’s Cross the Bridge Noodles. From then on, this became Yunnan’s signature dish.

Why did Mr Chua Lam say that the technique is primitive? That’s because nowadays, the restaurants serving this dish have far more sophisticated means to cook the noodles and other ingredients just right. Ironically, many of the soups served in Cross the Bridge Noodles today are probably not hot enough. The healthy amount of oil used is also insufficient to insulate the soup.

When I tried Cross the Bridge Noodles in Kunming, I remember dumping a whole plate full of rice noodles, fish and vegetable slices into a bowl of soup covered with a layer of chilli oil. There were so many cold ingredients added that I was worried there may not be enough heat in the porcelain bowl to cook everything. Luckily, fish cooks quickly. If I had pork (which I don’t eat) there would have been a good chance that the meat would be undercooked and I would have been stuck in the toilet for so long the next day that I would have missed my imperial examinations.

The problem of insufficient heat may be tackled in several ways. Some use pre-cooked ingredients – which defeat the purpose of crossing the bridge. Some use hot pots – which may make customers feel like that they should have had steamboat buffet instead.

MK SUKI 3

Actually, steamboats provide us with an excellent opportunity for a Cross the Bridge experience without the danger of undercooking. But that’s provided that we don’t do it the typically Singaporean way. They like to dump all the goodies into the pot at one go, place a lid over it and wait for the broth to boil. They might as well cook it over a kitchen stove. The correct way to enjoy steamboat is to cook bit by bit, ensuring that everything comes piping hot from the broth, cooked just right.

Today’s concept of Cross the Bridge Noodles is somewhat impractical. I would ride on a steamboat any day.

steamboat-seafood

© Chan Joon Yee


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