Holy Turkey

I snapped this pic of the deli label from one of our purchases a month or so ago.  I wanted to prove that I wasn’t exaggerating whenever I claim that “Western” food here comes with a price.  Exhibit A: Roasted deli turkey breast goes for 145RMB/500g, which is about $22/pound.

Those turkey sandwiches tasted a helluva lot better than the ones at home, let me tell you.

The Beauty of Bones

Forgive the radio silence over the last few days.  Between getting a part time job (not food related, therefore, boring and not worth writing about here) and having my parents in town for a short 36hour visit, I really didn’t have a bit of spare time to write.  I did, however, had a bit of time last Friday to prepare a pot of soup to welcome my mom and dad to China.

My mom’s cooking has a lot to do with my tastes and attitudes and opinions about food today.  She’s been a proponent of eating well, eating balanced, and eating naturally, long before Slow Food and Michelle Obama were at the forefront of our nation’s policies.  She’s instilled in me a good sense for hosting a small party of six and cooking as if a small nation was joining for dinner.  To her credit, I can wield a knife with basic grace, whether it be peeling a pear in one go or butchering a whole chicken.  There were a lot of simple things she taught me about food and the basics of cooking throughout the course of my childhood, and I am forever indebted to her for those things.

One talent I learned early on from her was the miracle of soup-making.  More often than not there would be a huge pot of pork/beef/chicken bones slowly simmering away on our stovetop, the meat cooked until tender and the broth ready to be cooked with noodles for dinner, reheated for lunch the next day…and usually again even later for a Chinese version of the late night snack.  My mom loved soup, and like most Chinese people believes there to be great healing and medicinal purposes in a great stock.

Long after I left the house, and after reading recipe after recipe, I realized in addition to the soothing qualities of soup, there existed a great versatility for meat stock.  Today I have a basic recipe that follows no specific measurements but always works, just like mom’s.  If I’m sick, I’ll throw in triple the ginger.  If I know I’m making a stock to be used for italian-mediterranean dishes, I’ll toss in various dried herbs like rosemary and sage.  If I will probably just be eating the soup and stock for dinner for the entire week, in will go some daikon radish, shiitake mushrooms and eventually, vermicelli noodles.

Here in China, the meat markets sing with the possibilities of soup making, much to my delight.  Each vendor has dozens of cuts of meats and bones laid out on display, from gelatinous pigs’ feet to delicate squab breasts.  Approaching a pig butcher, my asking for neck bones led to a vague finger pointing to a cluster of red meat sitting right in front of me.  After a bit of clarification- making sure that yes, this is pig, and yes, these are neck bones, I was set to go.  And from this, the picture below, I made a big pot of pork and vegetable soup to welcome my mom and dad to China.  Just like home.

Hot Pot

The Chinese version of fondue, or shabu shabu, hot pot is all the rage here in Guangzhou.  In an effort to eat as much hot pot as we can before it warms up here (B checked our 10-day forecast and weather up to the 70’s is expected within the next two weeks!!) we joined a few other folks last night for yet another hot pot dinner.  Here’s the spread we were faced with:

Caesar Dressing

Now that I’ve bored you out of your minds with how I pasteurized eggs, here’s a simple Caesar Dressing you can make at home.  The garlic in this recipe will blow your tastebuds away.  I didn’t have time yesterday, but for a softer, creamier dressing I’d try using roasted garlic instead of raw.


Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing (or if mildly unsuccesful, Anchovy Aioli)

3 cloves garlic, minced
6 anchovy filets, finely chopped, plus oil from the can to taste
1 cup mayonnaise- homemade or store bought
3/4 cup olive oil
1 small lemon (or substitute 1-2 tbsp white vinegar) plus zest, grated
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Optional: grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. Whisk the garlic and anchovy into the mayonnaise in a medium size bowl.  Add a small amount of the oil from the canned anchovies for flavor (If you use half of the anchovies in the can, use half of the oil in the can).
  2. Whisk in olive oil in small amounts, drizzling approximately 1 tbsp. at a time until oil becomes incorporated will not separate from the mayonnaise.  Beat in more or less olive oil, depending on your desired consistency.  Less olive oil will create an aioli, more will result in a thick dressing.
  3. Grate in zest of one lemon.  Add the juice of the lemon, continuing to whisk the mayonnaise-oil mixture.
  4. Using a spatula, fold in salt and pepper to season to your liking.

Optional: At the end, also fold in grated parmesan cheese for extra flavor.

Optional: For a smoother tasting dressing, use roasted garlic (4-5 cloves) instead of raw garlic


DIY Pasteurization

I’ve started to notice that everything in China ends up taking at least three times longer than it would at home.  More hoops to jump through, more people to fight through, more steps to take with everything.

For example, yesterday we had soup and salad for lunch- classic right?  Clam chowder and a caesar salad just screams American, does it not?  But what started as a simple idea of a soup and caesar salad lunch became a big production taking an hour+ long, starting with homemade croutons and ending with homemade dressing.  The chowder I made from a can- that part took 10 minutes- so it was a satisfying semi-homemade lunch worthy of Sandra Lee’s praise.

Anyway, rather than being a pain, this actually gives me an excuse to make the things I’ve always wanted to try back home, but had been too lazy or short on time to do so.  It’s easy to make homemade dressing, but even easier to run out to the corner deli to buy a bottle.  I’ve especially always wanted to make my own caesar dressing, after trying a good friend’s awesomely garlicky, mayonnaisey homemade recipe a couple of years ago.  The secret?  According to her, lots of pressed garlic and a disgusting amount of mayonnaise.  Fat and flavor, who would’ve thunk….

So herein lies hurdle number one: mayonnaise.  It’s not like mayonnaise does not exist in China.  But, the most common brands sold in the store are Japanese, which though tasty in their own right are worlds apart from the Hellman’s brand.  American brands are generally only sold in the big, Western grocery stores and they’re three times more expensive.  So in an effort to keep costs down and start my own kitchen adventure series, I decided yesterday to try my hand at making my own mayonnaise base for a caesar dressing.

While carefully selecting my eggs at the market, I realized I suddenly hit hurdle number two- raw eggs.  You can make “mayonnaise” just by beating oil, but in my opinion, it’s not real mayonnaise without raw eggs. Back at home, I’ve never bought into the whole “salmonella” thing, and since I was a kid ate raw eggs with hot pot, licked fingerfuls of cookie dough, and as an adult had eggs shaken into drinks- no sweat.  Here, however, as fresh as the eggs are that I buy, I still have no idea where they come from, so can’t help but imagine growing an extra arm if I eat them raw.

Luckily I encountered this article on how to pasteurize your own eggs at home for dressings and mayo.  Pasteurization is the process which heats eggs and dairy to a certain temperature so as to kill the harmful bacteria which it stores, so it makes sense that this seemingly simple process can be done at home.  The trick is, heating it to the proper temperature at the same time making sure you don’t cook or curdle the eggs.  Most homemade processes require the use of a thermometer, but this one called for three whisks and a watchful eye.  I have both.

This pasteurization uses lemon juice (or vinegar), so obviously should only be used for dressings, dips, or anything that uses raw eggs with a bit of a tangy flavor (like a pisco sour).  Don’t use this in cookie dough, unless you like your sweet dough with a funky tang.

How to make Pasteurized Eggs
from About.com article

2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice (or white vinegar)
2 tbsp water
3 clean whisks
saran wrap


  1. Separate the yolk of two eggs and whisk (using the first of three whisks) in a clean glass bowl.  Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and whisk again.  Add 2 tbsp water and continue whisking.  Once full incorporated, cover with plastic wrap and set bowl in microwave
  2. Microwave on high until the surface just begins to rise.  After this, count eight seconds on the timer.  Remove immediately, discard plastic wrap and begin to whisk egg yolk mixture with the second of your clean whisks.
  3. Repeat step 2 once more- set in microwave on high until surface begins to rise.  After this, count eight seconds on the timer.  Remove and whisk with the third of your clean whisks until egg yolk mixture is smooth and creamy.

I actually only have two real whisks, and used a pair of chopsticks as one whisk, because that’s what chinese people do (we didn’t use whisks growing up, we always use chopsticks to beat eggs.  It works).  Along with my mini mini whisk and my giant whisk, I had a Goldilocks and the Three Whisks situation.  An odd trio, indeed.

These eggs were a great start to my mayonnaise, which in the end produced a great dressing.  Since the I’m still here, with no growth of spare limbs this morning, so I’m guessing the DIY pasteurization worked.