What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 11-8-2013

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On 7 August 2013, white rice served with :

1.      Braised Bitter Gourd With Chinese Mustard                                                 苦瓜焖苦瓜

2.     Salted Turnip Omelette                                                                                    菜脯蛋饼

3.     Vegetarian Winter Melon Soup                                                                       素冬瓜汤

First of all, I have to be frank that I will be a vegetarian (by religion) for a period of about 1.5 months and being the only member in the family, I am pretty easy going with my meals. Since my relatives are in my house, they can cook what they like and I usually give them the free hand so that I can concentrate on my other food posts.

However, when I have things to share, I will post here and there summarizing what I have made the last few days. As mentioned before, short recipes will be captured in Guaishushu’s Facebook Page, therefore, I will let you know the dishes published and if you are interested, you can go there for some pictorial illustration. Liking the Page (not the individual posts) will ensure that you will be briefed of all future recipes when Guaishushu issue a pictorial illustration.



Salted Turnip Omelette (菜脯蛋饼)

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This is a very common Chinese household dish especially for the Hokkien and the Teochew dialects. It is basically preserved turnips (either sweet or salty) fried with eggs. When I was young, we used to have this dish with white porridge as its very tasty. Previously, this dish was considered as a commoner’s dish because eggs and preserved turnip or radish are two of the cheapest cooking ingredients. It is tasty and a slice of  egg omelette with a bowl of white rice or porridge can be a meal for the poorer families. However, time have changed, this traditional dish has become so well known that it started to appear in the restaurant menu especially Minan/Hokkien/Taiwan restaurant and Teochew porridge restaurant. Preparation is simple and you may want refer here for detail pictorial illustration.



Braised Bitter Gourd with Chinese Mustard (苦菜焖苦瓜)  

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This is a vegetable dish “invented” by myself many years ago. Initially, it was just bitter gourd and subsequently, as per my wife’s request, Chinese mustard was added. Both Chinese mustard and bitter gourd were very bitter and if you are a bitter taste lover, you will like it definitely. At times, I have added a can of canned button mushrooms and my kids will eat together with us. This is one way of letting them getting used to the taste of bitter gourd and Chinese mustard.

Both these vegetables were beneficial to the body as per Traditional Chinese Medicine, these are “cooling” vegetables that will help to release the “heat” on your body. For those who are not familiar with TCM, body that have too much “heat “ will have lots of symptoms that can range from loss of voice, acnes in your face, sore throat etc. and you have to have food that are “cooling” in nature to balance your Yin and Yang.

My mother in law is very particular about vegetable combination in a meal and she will casually remarked “we have some “heat” prone vegetable today and today we shall have some cooling vegetables.. So under her, her vegetable choices will take into consideration this factor plus “colour” of the vegetable (green vs. white vs. colourful), leafy vs beans….. Most of time, I “failed” her test under her supervision but I am learning from her gradually as this takes time!


Vegetarian Winter Melon Soup (素冬瓜汤)

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Nothing much to say about this dish as it is just another version of winter melon soup without pork ribs. As there is no meat broth, I have use more sweet dates and add in some vegetarian bean curd sheets. My boy did not complain about no meat and my girls, who is soup fanatic, will definitely say nice especially winter melon is one of her favourites.



Banana Cake (香蕉蛋糕)

Beside the savoury dishes, my baking adventures continue. I have made a banana cake using two ripe bananas. Taste is fabulous and texture is superb (soft and moist). Uniqueness about this cake is that it is prepared using a food processor rather than the normal mixer. No creaming of butter, just mixed and blend, a batter will come out that give a delicious butter cake. Cake preparation timing is less than 20 minutes. This is a comfort food that is suitable for those who want a simple way of cake making.

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In between these few days, I have prepared many cakes and savory dishes and among them were:

Oven baked honey tempeh and Sweet and Spicy Tempeh



Vegetable Fritters or Bakwan Sayuran

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Grapefruit Chiffon Cake with Grapefruit Citrus Glaze

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Bubur Cha Cha (Sweet Soup) 

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Hope you like the post today. Cheers

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National Flower Series–East Asia 5–Taiwan Republic of China– Prunus Mume

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梅花 (Plum Blossom)

梅花梅花滿天下 愈冷它愈開花

 梅花堅忍象徵我們 巍巍的大中華

看啊遍地開了梅花 有土地就有它

 冰雪風雨它都不怕 它是我的國花

看啊遍地開了梅花 有土地就有它

 冰雪風雨它都不怕 它是我的國花

梅花梅花滿天下 愈冷它愈開花

 梅花堅忍象徵我們 巍巍的大中華

梅花 唱:劉家昌 詞:劉家昌 曲:劉家昌

 

Most Chinese  will not be unfamiliar with the above patriotic song which was written for the Taiwanese film “Victory” (梅花) (1976) by its director Liu Chia Chang (劉家昌) and that basically summed up the characteristics of Prunus Mume and the importance of this flower in Taiwan. If you are do not understand Chinese language, you may want to refer here for its Chinese Pronunciations and English translations.

General information

Plum blossom is highly appreciated and admired for its early (January to March in central and southern China) blossoms, Prunus mume has enjoyed great popularity in China and Japan for centuries. It is popular as a bonsai and a ‘must’ in every Japanese-style garden. The world famous Kairaku-en garden in Japan, for example, boasts 3,000 specimens including 100 different cultivars, which create a feast for the eye during the ‘plum blossom’ season in late February/early March. Due to its long history of cultivation and cultural significance, there are more than 300 known cultivars in China, which differ mainly in the color of their flowers (which can be white, pink, red, purple or light green).

National Symbol

The plum blossom, Prunus mei, was officially designated by the ROC Executive Yuan (legislative council) to be the national flower on July 21, 1964. The plum blossom, which has shades of pink and white and gives off a delicate fragrance, has great symbolic value for the Chinese people because of its resilience during the harsh winter. (Source: www.kew.org)

The triple grouping of stamens (one long and two short) represents Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People (namely nationalism, democracy and socialism (民族主義, 民權主義 and 民生主義)), while the five petals symbolize the five branches of the ROC government.  (Source: Taiwan President’s Office’s website) namely Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Examination Yuan and Control Yuan.

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Species information

  • Scientific name                    : Prunus mume Siebold
  • Common name(s)                 : mume, ume, mei flower, Chinese plum, Japanese apricot.
  • Chinese name                      : 梅

Additional notes

  • Plum blossom tree is related to both the plum and apricot trees. Although generally referred to as a plum in English, it is more closely related to the apricot.
  • The fruit ripens in early summer, around June and July in East Asia, and coincides with the rainy season of East Asia, the “meiyu“ (梅雨季节, literally “plum rain”). Those who live in East Asia will knew that during this season, the whole area will become very damp and mold will appear in household items from kitchen condiments to leather jackets etc..

  • The fruit of the tree is used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cooking in juices, as a flavoring for alcohol, as a pickle and in sauces. It is also used in traditional medicine. 
  • Ume vinegar is a traditional digestive aid produced from Prunus Mume. Its sour and salty taste stimulates the production of saliva and stomach acids, which in turn help the body to break down and assimilate the nutrients in the food. Try it as a condiment on soups, stews, vegetable and grain dishes to absorb more nutrition and eliminate indigestion. You can read further: here.
  • Plum blossom is a flower not only important in Taiwan ROC but also have a huge cultural impact on Japanese and other Chinese communities. In fact, it is also another prime candidate considered for the national flower of People’s Republic of China. You can read my earlier post: National Flower of People’s Republic of China where the peony is deemed to be the unofficial national flower.
  • In Chinese, plum blossom it is one of the flower representatives associated with the four seasons namely orchid for spring (春蘭)、bamboo for summer(夏竹)、chrysanthemum for autumn (秋菊)、plum blossom for winter(冬梅).
  • The combination for these four flowers, collectively called “four flowers gentlemen”, also a Chinese painting favorite, denotes four characters that a gentleman should possess. Plum blossom signifies ability to withstand hardship as it blooms in the cold winter: orchids symbolize modesty, beauty, joy and purity; chrysanthemum reminds us that it is possible to triumph when the going gets tough and to be brave when faced with adversity and lastly bamboo represents upright and continual growth (梅寒盛放,蘭花清秀,菊花淡香、竹子節節上升).

Picture from: www.nicpic.com

  • Lastly, ever wonder what is the difference between plum blossoms as in this post and the cherry blossoms which is famous in Japan? Well, they looked very similar and most people can’t tell and I have found one article which state the differences as follows:
  Plum Blossoms (梅花) Cherry Blossoms(樱花)
 
Flower Plum blossoms don’t have any split at the end of the petals. Cherry blossoms have a small split at the end of each petals.
Bark The bark on a plum tree is darker and does not have distinctive horizontal line on it. The bark of the cherry tree often have small horizontal lines on it.
Flower Bud There is only one plum blossom coming out of the bud. More than one cherry will come out of a cherry bud.
Leaves Plum blossoms have small purple leaves that are unrolling although some species do have leaves that are green The leaves of cherry trees are green and unfolding.

You can refer to this website if you are interested to have a visual differentiations between plum and cherry blossoms. How about taking up another challenges to differentiate these two blossoms with the third blossom, i.e. peach blossoms (桃花)?

Hope you enjoy the post. Cheers