Every country throughout the world has their own typical or cultural bread. China is no exception with their mantou and baozi, which are rolls of dough steamed in stacked covered bamboo or (now) metal baskets at boiling temperature, sometimes being stuffed with meats or vegetable combinations. But perhaps a fairly unknown but interesting, tasty and most-like Western bread is Guandu Baba.
Baba is a yeast bread, made in my local neighbourhood market near Guandu Ancient Town in a 40 meter square bake shop. But it’s not your traditional Western loaf, cut into slices, but a 10-15 centimetre round, so delicious with a wonderful texture like some Western breads. Since finding Baba, the baking couple have become my friends, sharing our creations in bread making and our little secrets (even though the language barrier is great, we still enjoy our short conversations). When I asked to watch them and know more about this bread process, they obliged.
I have used Guandu Baba for making salty and fruit pizzas as well as my main breakfast food – cut into quarters, sliced in half through the middle, toasted in my small oven, and eaten with butter or jam or cream cheese. At this point I’d bet it’s even delicious with peanut butter.
No matter where you live in the world, if you’re a bread maker, your work starts way before your customers get their hankering for a slice of your bread or toast, and usually even before the sun comes up. My bakers, who come from DongBei in northern China, are no different. Mr. Wang Jing Zhang and Mrs. Bi Yi Min start their loaves rising at 6am and continue to bake and serve their customers until the last of their daily supply is sold – that’s usually 8pm. You could say that bread making is not an easy life. But it’s a rewarding one – as “bakers feed the world”.
It’s said that Westerners eat bread and Chinese eat rice. Of course there is much truth to that in general, however Westerners eat bread more often in loaves, whereas Chinese have just as many varieties of bread products to choose from. What starts off as basic dough, but by changing the shape or changing from wheat to rice flour, produces a huge variety of foods by mixing in or sprinkling on some spices, more or less salt or sugar, other ingredients, such as eggs, or vegetables, or adding or subtracting oil.
(I like to call them) my bakers use one small grill-type round ‘oven’ for their many varieties of bread-type foods. Interesting enough, the temperature of 150C was used for all products, only shortening or lengthening the cooking/baking time…all done without a timer, amazingly!
When asked how she learned to make these breads, Yu Min, replies, “There’s no big secret to our recipes. These are the original green foods, free from chemicals with no food additives and made with pure ingredients. They’re the ones that we’ve been eating since we were little kids.”
The baba dough consists of plain wheat flour, water, yeast and a very tiny amount of MSG. When saying this she puts her thumb and finger together to suggest a pinch! The dough is mixed and shaped into larger than fist sized discs and set aside in their warm, small shop to rise on baking sheets until about doubled in size. The baking procedure is simple. Three babas at a time are placed on bottom of the ‘oven’ – a very lightly greased surface – and using the hand, are flattened. Then the lid of the ‘oven’ is closed. The babas bake on one side for 5 minutes, then are turned with wooden tongs and cooked on the other side for another 2 minutes with the lid closed again. After much discussion about the correct name for this oven, it’s been determined that the oven is called a “Bing Cheng 饼铛”. Voila, fresh, hot, wonderful smelling Guandu Baba!
This dough is also used to make the large flat pancakes with a heavy, long rolling pin, in two flavours. More oil is added and the first pancakes come out of the oven quickly, then are sprinkled with sesame seeds on top, cut into small bits and put into a small plastic bag with a toothpick from snacking as you walk along doing your errands. There’s a lovely, crispy sesame taste to these.
The same pancake is morphed into a spicier snack, with a mixture of chilli sauce, sprinkled with green onion on the top.
The dough that’s wrapped in clear plastic is the original recipe with some oil and eggs added into the dough, and following the same procedure as above, is cooked in more oil and done very quickly.
The morning I was there, they had already made over 30 babas, many other kinds of bread products, and nice warm soya bean milk. And that was at 9:00 in the morning. During the mid day they will make another batch or two of dough and continue to bake more breads throughout the day, keeping their booth stocked with the tasty morsels that the customers have grown to love over the 6 years they have been in Kunming.
I am wondering if they’re going to expand or sell their business. Just last week, they had a woman and her son working together and the baker seemed to be teaching his sister-in-law and nephew how to do what he and his wife have been doing for so long…baking baba and traditional street snacks. It’s quite normal that with two more pairs of hands in the back, their business will improve, just as long as they don’t move or close down that will be fine…that would be a pity for all of the residents of my neighbourhood but mostly for me!
My hats off to this talented couple who, like so many others in the same shoes all over China, work incredibly long hours in cramped quarters with recipes passed down from generations using simple utensils and equipment to feed the masses with ever tasty and predicable breads!
Don’t you just love the smell in the house when anything is being made with oranges. And what about that beautiful orange colour….so dramatic and alive! Well I have been trying many different recipes that meld cranberries with citrusy flavours like lemon and orange, and have come up with a fluffy, yummy, melt-in-your-mouth kinda muffin – not one of those hard, heavy and dry ones. So give it a try!
Makes 16 muffins
1 cup cranberries
2 large Jaffa (or substitute) oranges
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter (margarine can substitute)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Sugar (coarse granulated sugar is optimum) to sprinkle on top.
Preheat oven to 400F. Fill a muffin tin with muffin papers and set aside. (you’ll need to repeat with 4 more papers after the first batch are baked).
Chop the cranberries by hand with a knife or in your food processor. Set aside.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the oranges. Place in a food processor to chop the peel. Leave the peel pieces in the bowl. Then cut off the bottom and top of the oranges and score the pith (the bitter white insides of the oranges). Remove the outer pith and break the orange sections apart. Cut each section into 4 pieces and put into a food processor (or blender) along with the peel and process or blend until pureed. Set aside.
Place the egg and butter in a large bowl and mix well. Add the pureed orange.
Combine the remaining ingredients to the orange mixture and continue to stir until blended.
Fill 12 muffin cups about 3/4 full. There will be enough dough left over to make 4 more. Sprinkle the tops with 1 teaspoon each of granulated sugar.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes; remove from oven and let stand until slightly cooled before removing muffins.
Repeat with remaining dough to make 4 more muffins. Enjoy!
Sushi is made with some common and not so common ingredients and equipment. Great sushi starts with great cooked sushi rice, a combination of small grain, round polished sushi rice, and seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and oil. Once the rice is prepared the sky’s the limit as to what ingredients you can include into your luscious rolls of sushi. Combinations of finely sliced vegetables, raw fish, and other condiments are wrapped with Nori, the thin sheets of dried seaweed, and sliced into beautifully formed and appetizing rounds. Dipped into a soy sauce and wasabi mixture and eaten using chopsticks, these healthy morsels can be the appetizer or an entire meal for lunch or dinner.
How to Make Sushi Rice
Makes enough rice for 5 rolls. Approximately 30-40 pieces of sushi
2 cups sushi or short grain rice (not instant or converted rice)
2 ¼ cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Chinese Chicken Bouillon Granules
Place the rice into a strainer or colander in a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.
Let the rice sit for 30 minutes to allow the rice to absorb the water and therefore be tender. Place the rice and water into a medium saucepan or a rice cooker.
Rice Cooker Method: Turn on the rice cooker and the rice allow to cook. When the rice is done, open the lid and remove the pan from the machine. Let the rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes
Stove Top Method: Bring to a boil, uncovered on high heat. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and oil in a small bowl and place in a microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds.
Put the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Use a wooden spoon and fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture being careful not to damage the rice. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.
Typical Ingredients for Sushi
Slivers of carrot
Slivers of cucumber
Slivers of green onion
Slivers of avocado
Slivers of crab meat
Slivers of tuna
Slivers of Salmon
Caviar (fish eggs)
Softened Cream Cheese
Maki (sushi mat)
Nori (dried seaweed sheets)
Your ingredients must be prepared before you can start to put your sushi rolls together. Prepare your fresh ingredients while the rice is cooking and cooling. Fish ingredients should be slightly frozen to cut easily into thin strips. Leave the skin on the cucumber. Use the whites and green parts of green onion. Peel carrots and cut into long thin slivers.
So the rice doesn’t stick to the bamboo sushi mat, wrap it in cling film or better, place it inside a ziplock baggie, letting out the air before sealing.
Place one sheet of nori on the mat with the long sides left and right of your surface and the short sides on the top and bottom closest to you. Take a tennis ball sized fistful of rice (approximately 1 cup, well packed) and spread it out on the nori. Do not go right to the edges, leaving an 1/8 of an inch on the sides and bottom and leaving a ½ space on the short side at the top of your mat, farthest away from you. Press firmly to even out the rice, using the back of a wooden spoon, which doesn’t stick to the rice. Dab a line of water on the nori where there is no rice at the top end.
* NOTE: The nori can be placed on the mat with the long sides in front and the short sides to the left and right…it’s your choice. The difference is only in the size and the quantity of rolls you will get at the end.
At about the 1/3 mark from you, line up the ingredients parallel to you. Try not to leave any space on the line.
Begin to roll, in jelly roll fashion, from the end closest (and shortest) to you using the mat and putting firm pressure on the ingredients until the mat is just around the entire ingredients. Then pull the nori and the mat closer to you, but removing the mat from above the ingredients and placing it all the way around the ingredients, rolling as you go. Press down firmly to push the ingredients firmly in place. Repeat one more time to attach the nori to the other end of the nori to seal the ends together. A little more water may be required to seal the ends.
Keep a damp clean cloth beside you to keep your workspace and your hands clean.
Move the roll down and to the side edge, and wrap the mat around, pushing any stray bits back into the end with the flat end of your knife. Repeat with the other end, for a clean end.
Lightly mark the half-way-point with your knife, easily finding the middle point by lining the roll inside the ropes that hold the mat together.
Remove the roll to a cutting surface. Using a well-sharpened knife, cut through the centre where you marked it. Turn one of the pieces around to line up with the other clean-cut end. Clean the knife after each cut by dipping it in cold water and wiping with your clean cloth. Sharpen again as required. The more you sharpen, the better your cuts. Cut the two pieces at two time, into half, and then half again, making taller, or shorter pieces of sushi. Cutting in thirds will make taller pieces of sushi, cutting in fourths will make shorter pieces, the amount of cuts depending on how tall you want your sushi to be.
California Rolls – with the rice outside
Place the amount of rice on your nori as above, making sure the rice is firmly on the nori. At the 1/3 line sprinkle a row of sesame seeds.
Turn the nori with the rice over onto your mat and repeat as above.
The sky’s the limit; only limited by your own imagination. Give this healthy food a try and let me know how you do. Do a Google search for more information and videos on how to roll sushi and enjoy!
Looking to cook something different for dinner….check out my latest cookbook, Roz Weitzman’s World of Chinese Comfort Food, Illustrated Version at the Apple iTunes Store:
- Recipe: Yunnan-style Hongshaorou
- March 19, 2013
- Recipe: Mint and green onions
- February 27, 2013
- Recipe: Yunnan-style red beans and shiitakes
- January 29, 2013
- Yunnan-style tomato salad
- December 24, 2012
- Recipe: Shredded chicken with chili sauce
- November 29, 2012
- Recipe: Spicy taro and greens
- November 11, 2012
- Recipe: Yunnan-style pork and egg custard
- October 2, 2012
- Recipe: Yunnan-style lotus root and pork
- September 16, 2012
- Recipe: Yunnan-style edamame beans and garlic
- September 1, 2012
I’m so proud to announce the beautiful illustrated version of my latest cookbook, Roz Weitzman’s World of Chinese Comfort Food. Every recipe photo has been wonderfully hand-drawn and illustrated by my talented Illustrator, Nancy Szostak.
All the same book of 70 Chinese Comfort Food recipes but with illustrations instead of photos.
Please take a moment to have a look at the ebook at the Lulu website and even write a brief review.
If you try any of these recipes, I would love to have your feedback in my Comment Box:
- Copper pot rice April 19, 2013
- Yunnan-style Hongshaorou March 19, 2013
- Mint and green onions February 27, 2013
- Yunnan-style red beans and shiitakes January 29, 2013
- Yunnan-style tomato salad December 24, 2012
- Shredded chicken with chili sauce November 29, 2012
- Spicy taro and greens November 11, 2012
- Yunnan-style pork and egg custard October 2, 2012
- Yunnan-style lotus root and pork September 16, 2012
- Yunnan-style edamame beans and garlic September 1, 2012
Since I live in China, you might wonder what I eat everyday. My meals have changed a lot over the 8 years I’ve been here. Since I learned how to cook Chinese, my meals have gotten more healthy and more consistently Chinese.
Well my breakfast resists the change. I can’t tolerate noodles cooked in spicy sauce, or garlicy food in the morning. I guess that’s a habit I’m not likely to break any time in the near future. It consists of a mug or two of decaffeinated coffee, sometimes it’s instant and sometimes it’s perked, along with a toasted home made roll or quarter of GuanDu BaBa cut in half through the centre, and spread with New Zealand butter. Often I eat it plain; periodically I top the toast with jam, most often Carrefour-brand blueberry or raspberry jam. Sometimes it’s topped with mozarella or cheddar cheese and melted in my ‘easy-bake’ oven.
I call it my easy-bake because ovens are not usually built in here…most often if you want an oven you buy a small, tabletop oven which is a little larger than a toaster oven with a higher baking temperature too.
In addition to wanting a healthier diet, I live in a third-tier city, not very foreign-food friendly. So after buying pasta in a variety of shapes, there’s not much else. Fortunately dairy products have become a bigger part of the Chinese diet, so butter, and cheeses are available in small quantities, even in this city.
Lunches and dinners are almost always Chinese food. Noodles, soups, and vegetables of all kinds, and served cooked and fresh are a daily part of my diet. Some dish with a small portion of meat for lunch, and vegetables, usually fresh for dinner.
Tonight I switched things around and had a cucumber salad for lunch and cooked this stir-fry for dinner. I love this combination in noodles and ofter change the main veggie for something different….broccoli, Chinese cabbage, usually a green one. And I change the noodles too…Udon, rice, wheat, sweet potato or vermicelli noodles; sometimes fresh, sometimes dried.
The secret to a good stir-fry is in cutting all ingredients very thin so that they cook quickly, and using a hot wok, keeping it all moving fast so as not to burn the dish! A gas stove helps to control the heat very finely and that can also aid in cooking without burning or making the ingredients soggy.
So here you have it, my dinner tonight…Noodle Stir-Fry with Snow Peas and Meat. This dish gets it’s awesome flavours from the traditional mix of ginger, garlic, green onion, Chinese Rice Cooking Wine, and soy sauce. Try it for dinner and I hope you will enjoy!
Noodle Stir-Fry with Snow Peas and Meat
1 chicken breast or ¼ pound pork tenderloin, very finely sliced
2 teaspoon Chinese rice cooking wine
4 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
4 teaspoons minced ginger, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 tablespoons oil, divided
2 beaten eggs
4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 teaspoon fresh chopped ginger
4 green onions, cut in 1-inch pieces
½ cucumber, finely sliced (optional)
1 cup snowpeas
1 teaspoon Chinese chicken bouillon granules*
2 servings fresh noodles (Udon, rice or wheat) allowed to soak in hot water for 15 minutes and then drained
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Mix the finely shredded meat with rice wine, half of the garlic and ginger, and the cornstarch and allow the mixture to marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat the wok, add 2 tablespoons oil, and wait for it to heat. Stir-fry the eggs and break into small bits. Set them aside.
Heat the wok, add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and wait for it to heat. Stir-fry the chicken or pork with the sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Remove and set aside together with the eggs.
Clean and dry the wok. Then heat the wok, add 2 tablespoons oil, and wait for it to heat. Stir-fry the green onion and the remaining ginger and garlic to release their fragrance. Add the snow peas and cucumber with bouillon granules, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce until brightly coloured and still crunchy.
Stir in noodles and heat for another 1-2 minutes on low heat. Add more soy sauce to taste and the fresh chopped cilantro. Mix the ingredients together thoroughly while keeping the heat on low for another minute. Transfer to a platter and serve hot.
Lots of good and healthy ingredients in these bars and not bad chemicals or unhealthy additives. I may have posted this recipe before but since then I have made improvements to the taste to the original recipe which I found online (forgot where I got it from so sorry to the original poster). In addition, I have found the way to cut them so beautifully. I have yet got a way to cut them all equally but there must be some gadget out there for making them all the same size! And I must write that blog post/article about the many uses for my new best friend, parchment paper!
Playground Granola Bars
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds (preferably unsalted)
1/2 cup flax seed
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I use 2 teaspoons)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 – 3/4 cup raisins
1/2 – 3/4 cup semi sweet little chocolate bits
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. Better still, line the pan with parchment paper, it’s my new best friend!
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon, flour, walnuts, raisins, chocolate bits and salt.
Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla.
Mix well. Pat the mixture evenly and press down well with a spatula into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Do not over bake.
Cool for 5 minutes and remove from the pan with the paper and all. Let cool completely then cut into bars with your best cleaver.
Store in a sealed container. Moist and yummy the next day.
My usual topics are about food or China but today I want to share some good information with you. You will find it helpful if you have planned to make a Family Photo Book. This is my second photo book with iPhoto 11 since I just upgraded from iPhoto 9. If you find this useful or not, please take a little time to give me your feedback!
Making a family album of your old photos can be a daunting task because if you’re like me, the sheer volume of photos and most without dates or names can be scary to attempt. There are many good tutorials on how to use iPhoto so I won’t bore you with those details. But I do have a way to simplify the process.
My project started with a selection of over 500 family photos ranging in dates from the early 1900’s all the way through to the early 1980’s. I had each decade of photos in individually labelled Ziploc baggies. Paying to have them scanned was a huge time-saver. Having them scanned and named by decade helped to keep them in a sort of chronological order. I also made a separate pile for photos that needed to be scanned on the back for those that have handwritten inscriptions, or ‘love notes’, as I found with my parents’ photos, sent to one another while my Dad was in the UK during WW2.
From there, the work of making the photo book became my task; and with iPhoto it just couldn’t be easier. I know this from past experience. Over the years, I’ve made many photo books, choosing a variety of photo book companies from a vast array available online. I’ve used Blurb.com, treasure-books.com, shutterfly.com, iPhoto (Apple.com) and PhotobookChina.com. With the exception of the last, they have all made a beautiful finished product.
My other iPhoto 11 photo book was a compilation of my granddaughter’s art from the past 8 years and I have a screen shot of it at the end of this post. I used the same method but didn’t put the photos of the art in chronological order. Next time!
But satisfaction difference has been in the ease of use of the software. Having the photo software on your computer means not having to rely on a slow Internet connection or losing your work as one terrifying factor. The other would be the way the software is user friendly and predictable, and the interface at the ordering process is so uncomplicated.
So my recently completed Silverman/Weitzman Family Album on the way to be processed and I have compiled this list of how I got the project finished. Read on…!
1. IN iPhoto, MAKE A NEW ALBUM
- Gather your photos into one event; only selecting the best of a series of several of the same poses to reduce the amount of photos.
- When you use Auto-Flow, having the names of the photos in sequential order will be very helpful, especially when you switch from one family group within the bigger family.
2. START A NEW PHOTO BOOK PROJECT
- Start a new photo book and select the style, design features you prefer
- Including the style of cover and size of the book/pages
3. ADD THE DETAILS FOR THE FRONT AND BACK COVERS AND INSIDE JACKET COVER
- Select the photos for the front and back covers and inside jacket covers and backs.
- Choosing photos of the matriarch and patriarch of the family by cropping their faces out of an old photo is great way to highlight their contribution to the family. Add the text as required, or leave that to later when you add captions and inspiration comes naturally.
4. UNIFY YOR BOOK WITH BACKGROUND CHOICES
- The most interesting photo books focus on the photos and not the extras, so it’s best to have all backgrounds the same colour/style to unify the book.
- With iPhoto there are many choices for faming each photo that can be changed later.
5. USE AUTOFLOW TO INSERT YOUR PHOTOS
- Use autoflow to insert all photos into the book, it’s the most efficient way to begin your photo placement.
- It gives you a good place to start and a feeling of some accomplishment!
6. REGROUP AND REARRANGE YOUR PHOTOS
- Starting at the first page go back and replace and regroup photos as necessary, since sometimes photos are not in the exact order that you chose to begin with.
- Autoflow tends to put more pages with less photos on each page. I like to group same-event photos onto layouts of 3 to 6 photos.
- Select layouts without captions at the bottom or side of the page when possible.
- There are so many custom layouts to choose from if you scroll down in the layout drop down list.
- Use the photo border that has the caption at the bottom of each photo. This gives you a larger photo size and less unused blank space.
- Including a last page with the dates of birth/death of each old family member helps future generations with all this leg work that is sometimes a futile effort because those folks are no longer alive.
7. PHOTO EDIT THE PICTURES
- Go back and change all the photo colours: For black and white photos that are very old, the ‘antique’ colouring shows the photos off to their best.
- At the same time, make the photos larger within the frames and centre them to look their best.
8. PUT IN CAPTIONS
- Go back to the beginning again and put in all captions, using the same fonts and colour.
- In the text function, select the font, colour and style for all captions by clicking the check-off box. Some captions are longer than others, requiring a smaller font.
- Verify the dates of the photos by looking at the originals on the front and back.
- Once dates are verified, you may want to move some photos around one last time.
9. SAVE YOUR BOOK AS A PDF
- Save your book as a PDF and print it out in PDF format on regular paper and in black and white to make sure there are no typos, name or date mistakes.
- Make the changes to the original document in iPhoto.
- Save as a pdf again for other family members to view in advance of the final printing.
10. PLACE OUR ORDER USING YOUR ITUNES ACCOUNT AND WAIT PATIENTLY FOR THE MAIL!
- Order your photobook using your Apple iTunes account.
- Patiently wait for the courier/mail to arrive!
Please take a moment to give me your feedback in the comments section. Thanks and happy photo booking!