Monday, September 20, 2010

United States - Texas Barbeque in China

Who knew you could get Texas barbeque in China. Less than half a century ago it would have seemed like an oxymoron. It still does, in a way. Then again, Deng Xiaoping did go with Nixon to a Lone Star – not a Red Star – barbeque in the seventies where he saw a hot dog and wondered why Americans would want to eat the anatomical part of a dog. But Texas is so quintessentially American – the cowboy, Texas beef, big oil, big everything. In China, in the sixties and seventies, during the Cultural Revolution, one could get ten years of hard labor for whispering the desire for Texas barbeque. You most certainly would have been labeled a counter-revolutionary.

But that was then, this is now. To get rich is glorious. Consumerism is rampant. You rarely see Mao suits. Women are dressed in short skirts and heels. There are fewer bicycles and more Mercedes sedans. There’s a widening gap between rich and poor. You even see illicit movies for sale. China resembles the United States more everyday.

“Tim’s” was the name of the Texas barbeque restaurant. There were TV’s on the wall so sports fans could watch the game. Okay, so they didn’t have on American football, it was rugby or ice hockey, I think. I don’t pay attention to these things. But the point is, it was a sports bar!

We ate at a picnic style table and drank beer with our meal – Chinese beer – but still. Almost all the patrons were western. You could almost trick yourself in believing you were in the West somewhere, except for the waitresses that didn’t speak English.

After dinner, as if to do something counter-American, we went to a night market where we watched Chinese opera and ate scorpions on a stick. Someday I’ll be ready to go back to the U.S. – but not yet.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

South Africa - Good-bye Canada!

It was American night for our South African meal at Christa and Neil’s house in Oakville. The invited guests were us, my stepfather, Chris, who was visiting from Florida, and a co-worker of Neil’s who was visiting from Minnesota. It was also Canada’s Victoria Day, the un-definable holiday that evoked shrugs but was faithfully celebrated with parties, fireworks and a day off from work and school.

We sat outside on the deck, while our dinner cooked, munching on South African treats: Dried peaches, dried guava smear, nuts, beef biltong (dried shaved beef), and beef drowors (dried sausage). Kevin and I sat back contently - our kids happily playing with Christa and Neil’s children – and we discussed China and our recent trip there. Chris, who had worked and lived in China for years, charmed us with his infamous Chinese joke that he tells almost everyone he first meets.

When he got everyone’s attention – even waited for Christa to come out of the kitchen and sit down – he began. He started out by giving us a quick review of China/U.S. relations. He explained that in 1972 Nixon made a historical visit to China that led the way for China’s opening up to the West. Shortly after Nixon’s visit, Deng Xiaoping visited the United States where he was invited to a Texas barbeque.

“Deng was fascinated by the food,” Chris said. “He asked Nixon what everything was.” Chris pointed to imaginary food and stabbed the air with his finger. “Zhi shi ma? What’s that? Deng Xiaoping asked. 'That’s a hotdog,’ Nixon said." Chris paused for comic effect. “Deng said, ‘We eat dog in China too, but not that part!’”

Chris beamed as everyone laughed. I laughed too even though I’d heard this joke a thousand times. Our kids had heard it a thousand times too. Once, at our house, Julia told this joke to some unsuspecting dinner guests.

When dinner was ready we ate inside in the dinning room. Dishes were spread out on the table like county fair pies competing for the blue ribbon. We each picked up a plate and piled them high with turmeric rice with raisins and Bobotie served with chutney, sliced bananas and diced tomato and onion sambal. It was all so delicious and John took so many helpings of the Bobotie that I was thankful Christa had made plenty. For dessert we had Melktert, or milk tart.

It was a lovely night, Americans talking about China while eating South African food and celebrating a Canadian holiday. It was the sort of thing I had come to expect living in the Toronto area. Christa pointed out that none of us were native to Canada, but we all felt connected to each other and to our surroundings.

I would leave Canada for China with the feeling I had that night: a mixture of quiet acceptance and warmth, a kind of peace and contentment. Thanks to Christa and Neil, and a country we once called home.

Recipes: Bobotie Ingredients
• 1 fairly thick slice crustless bread (white or wheat)
• Bay leaves
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 2 teaspoons butter
• 2 onions, sliced
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 5 teaspoons curry powder
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 5 teaspoons chutney
• 1 tablespoon smooth apricot jam
• 1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 5 teaspoons brown vinegar
• 2 1/4 pounds ground beef, mutton, or lamb (raw mince)
• 1/4 cup green seedless grapes (sultanas)
• 3 eggs
• Pinch each salt and turmeric
• 1
Soak bread in milk.
• 2
Heat oil and butter in large pan and fry onions and garlic. When onions are soft, add curry powder, salt, chutney, jam, Worcester sauce, turmeric and vinegar and mix well.
• 3
Drain and mash bread and reserve milk.
• 4
Add bread to pan together with meat and grapes. Cook over low heat, stirring, and when meat loses its pinkness, remove from stove. Add 1 beaten egg, mix well, then spoon into a greased 11 x 7 inch baking dish and level the top.
• 5
Beat remaining eggs with reserved milk (you should have about 10 ounces) and the salt and turmeric. Pour over meat mixture and put a few bay leaves on top. Stand dish in a larger pan of water (this is important to prevent drying out) and bake, uncovered at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until set.
• 6
Serve with yellow rice, chutney, sliced bananas and a diced tomato and onion sambal.
Yellow Rice
Yellow rice is eaten with the Cape Malay dish called Bobotie.

2 cups of rice 
¾ cup raisins, soaked in water for 20 minutes, then drained 
1 teaspoon of turmeric 
a dash of salt 
2 sticks of cinnamon

Instructions on how to make it
Place all the ingredients, including the raisins in about 750ml of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. If there is still excess water in the pot when the rice is tender, pour it out carefully. 
Dot the rice with a few blobs of butter and give it a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar (come on Penny, a little sugar and a little cinnamon powder, mixed together). 

Cover and keep warm. 

South African Melktert (Milk Tart) Ingredients
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted
• 1 cup white sugar
• 3 egg yolks
• 1 cup cake flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 4 cups milk
• 3 egg white
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Coat a 9 inch deep dish pie plate with vegetable oil cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy. Sift in the cake flour, baking powder and salt, and stir until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and milk. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks using an electric mixer. Fold into the batter. Pour into the prepared pie plate, and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top.
3. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Continue to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center is set when you gently jiggle the pie. Serve hot or cold.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Lately it has been a challenge to keep up with my Eat Planet blog because we recently found out that we are moving to Beijing, China! My husband was offered a job, through his company, to be Operations Director at a joint venture plant over there. We are very excited and we have lots to do since we are moving in the last week of July.

My husband and I were in Beijing last week - it has changed quite a bit since I was there in 1994 - and we found a house to rent and toured the international schools. We were impressed with everything!

Since I am very preoccupied I have decided to stop posting articles on my blog for now, but I will resume once we are settled in China. Living in Beijing will put a very interesting twist on cooking meals from around the world.

So I hope that you will rejoin me in a few months as I continue eating my way around the world (and since we plan on traveling quite a bit through Asia perhaps we’ll eat some of our meals while visiting countries).

Thanks to all who have been following my blog.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Madagascar - Lasopy

Madagascar is a place that most children can point on the map thanks to the animated movie “Madagascar.” It’s an island in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The fourth largest island in the world is home to 5 % of the world’s plant and animal species and many are endemic to Madagascar (and look plain weird). Did you know that the country has seventy varieties of lemur?

For our Madagascar meal we had the soup called Lasopy. It’s a vegetable soup that is flavored with meat bones. John, who enjoys cooking, made this soup for me all by himself. He did a great job. We loved it.


You can use any fresh vegetables and meat bones.

3 lbs veal bones
2 qts water
2 TBSP salt
3 carrots, peeled and cut
1 small turnip, peeled and cut
1 cup fresh or frozen string beans
1 cup tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 tsp black pepper

Simmer for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. Remove the veal bones and puree the soup in a blender.

Serve thick and hot.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Macedonia - Tomatoes and Eggplants

Macedonia is mountainous and landlocked surrounded by the countries Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo. A former Yugoslav Republic that seems to be searching for its identity. A place where one can experience the best of old and new with Romans ruins, medieval monasteries, the 900-year-old tree at Ohrid along side modern shopping centers, bars and well-dressed men and women in Italian fashions.

The cuisine can best be described as a combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. They have a nice variety of fruits and vegetables in their dishes because the climate is warm and the land is fertile. Most meals are accompanied by a Shopska salad. It is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, roasted red peppers and sirene cheese. I did not make a Shopska salad but we were impressed with the meal I prepared of Tomatoes filled with Meat and Stuffed Eggplant.

Tomatoes Filled With Meat

600g veal or ground beef
1 onion
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
Cooking oil

Tomato juice and rice

With a knife take off the top of each tomato. Take out the core.

Fry chopped onion and add meat, salt and pepper. When the meat is fried, add chopped parsley, beaten eggs and some cooked rice. Fill the tomato with this mixture and put in baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes.

Serve on cooked rice on a plate with tomato juice or ketchup.

Stuffed Eggplant

4 small eggplants (or 2 big)
Lemon juice
4 TBSP olive oil
White wine
1 Lb ground meat
2 onions
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
2 eggs
Cheese ( I used Pecorino Toscaro Fresco)

Cut each eggplant along its length. Scoop out the eggplants to make shells and reserve the filling. Salt the eggplants and set aside. After awhile dry them with paper towels and add some lemon juice.

Place the eggplants in heated oil; add some wine and fry for about 10 minutes. Remove eggplants and place them in a saucepan.

Heat oil and fry chopped onion, ground meat, garlic, eggplant filling and salt and pepper. Then add parsley and eggs. Fill the eggplants with the mixture and then top it with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Luxembourg - Mussels Luxembourg Style

Luxembourg’s name is too big for its size. It’s located in Western Europe and borders Belgium, France and Germany. It’s said to remind one of fairytales since the landscape is dotted with medieval castles and its history reads like a Grimm’s tale. The people seem to be set in their ways and mostly live in the countryside. The capital is old Luxembourg City; romantic and charming, the best of old-world Europe and new.

Luxembourg’s cuisine is influenced by the cuisines of France and Germany. Plus, one can throw in the influences of Italian, Portuguese and Belgian. I may have given the cuisine a better representation if I had cooked a meal of black pudding and boiled potatoes, and perhaps a pastry for dessert. But since my family has a love for mussels I couldn’t resist making Mussels Luxembourg Style. I served it with French fries and so it was very similar to our Belgium meal, only this time I made it myself.

Mussels Luxembourg Style

2 leeks
1 carrot
1 onion
1 or 2 shallots
Celery stick and some celery leaf
A bunch of parsley
5 bubls garlic
1/2 bottle Riesling
Pepper and salt
A sprig of thyme
2 tarragon leaves

Chop the garlic and the vegetables. Then with butter, fry the shallots and onion, then add the vegetables, thyme and tarragon. Add about 1/4 of the wine and cook until vegetables are tender. Then mix butter and crushed garlic together with some black pepper and set aside. Add the mussels to the pot and the rest of the wine. Stir.

When the mussels open add the garlic butter and mix everything together. Sprinkle parsley on top of the mussels when it is ready to serve.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lithuania - Cold Beet Soup and Meat Dumplings

Lithuania borders Belarus, Poland and Latvia and is the largest of the three Baltic republics. It gained independence with the Soviet Union just over a decade ago and once shared an empire with Poland. Now it’s said to be Europe’s best-kept secret and the capital, Vilnius, is referred to as the ‘New Prague.’ It sure seems to have come a long way.

Even so, I read they are still superstitious; even numbered flowers in a bouquet are for the dead, and it is bad luck to shake hands with someone across a doorway.

Cold Beet Soup ( Cold Borscht)

1 lb red beets
4 cups water
2 cucumbers, chopped into small cubes
2 scallions or chives, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs,, peel, separate white from the yolks and chop white finely
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups buttermilk
Fresh dill

Clean and peel the beets, cover with water and boil until tender.

Mash the scallions with the egg yolks and 1/4 tsp slat to release the onion flavor.

When the beets have finished boiling, remove them from the water and reserve the liquid

Clean, trim and peel beets, cover with water and boil until tender. Cool the beets under cold running water. When beets have cooked, grate them coarsely.

In a large mixing bowl, add buttermilk to the beet water and blend in sour cream; then add beets, cucumbers, egg whites, egg yolks and onions. Stir until well blended.

Place in refrigerator to chill. Serve with chopped dill as garnish.

Meat Dumplings


3 eggs
2 TBSP water
3 cups flour


1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion

Beat eggs, then add salt and pepper, chopped onion and ground beef.

Then prepare the dough. Beat eggs. Add salt, water and flour to make a soft dough. Roll the dough out and cut ut circles with a large glass, each circle about 3 inces in diameter. Fill each dough circle with a Tablespoon of filling. Seal the edges and twist over the ends.

Bring three quarts of salted water to a boil. Drop in the dumplings and return water to a boil. Dumplings are done when they float to the top.

Serve with hot gravy.