Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Chinese Rice (egg-free, dairy-free gluten-free)

During my twenties, my hubby and I spent three years living in northern China. Prior to our arrival we had a few lessons of Mandarin, but we were working on the ‘sink or swim’ principle.

My husband was assigned an interpreter. I was not. Yet the little crowd of taxi drivers that gathered every morning at the hotel gates saw me as their personal project. They never ripped me off and always made sure I learnt a few words each day.

Chinese customs confounded me. I was very, very green and felt as though I were on a completely different planet. Everything I had previously held to be proper or acceptable or hygienic or edible or part of the highway code…all these ideas were challenged by an ancient culture very different to my own.

It was a pretty tough time. I had long blonde hair. I stood out. I was pointed at, shouted at, followed, and I was often fairly miserable. I drank a lot.

I loved the Chinese food. I loved the egg-fried rice. I loved the Snow Peas sautéed with garlic. I loved the dumplings. I loved the cucumber in sesame oil. I loved the spicy noodles. I ate a lot of Chinese food. And when I was sad I ate a lot of chocolate. I gained quite a lot of weight.

Once I had to attend a formal dinner with my husband’s Chinese boss and other Chinese staff. The boss held forth and we all listened politely. Suddenly the musical language was being directed towards me. I listened more politely. I waited as the interpreter did her stuff,
Mr Wang says you are looking very fat!’.
Everyone around the table nodded in smiling agreement. I felt a hand grasp my knee under the table. Very Hard. My husband’s pleading eyes and fixed smile said, ‘Shut up! Don’t speak! Nod in Smiling Agreement!’ I nodded in smiling agreement and gulped on some Tsingtao beer.

Apparently, for a certain generation in China, being ‘fat’ is a sign of prosperity.

I did manage to lose my fat. I went on a long backpacking trip. I got very ill in one country but was determined to do a 9-day mountain trek in the next country. I barfed my way to the top of the hill and I barfed back down again. I lost lots and lots of weight. It was wonderful.

Back home in China the new, svelte me had to send a fax from the hotel Business Centre. By now my Mandarin skills were fine, thank-you taxi-drivers. As I waited for the staff to send the fax, in walked another member of staff.
Have you seen?’ asked the first member of staff, ‘That’s Mrs X sitting there’.
The other staff member turned and looked at me. They were safe in their belief that foreigners didn’t understand Chinese.
She has lost so much weight!’ (I nonchalantly crossed my legs that were clad in short shorts.)
She really needed to, she was just getting fatter and fatter. She was just doing this…’ The first member of staff blew out her cheeks and slowly brought her two arms up to indicate a body shape resembling that of a barrage balloon.
Really fat she was. Really fat.’

Apparently for another generation in China, being ‘fat’ may be a sign of prosperity, but it is certainly not to be admired.

Please enjoy my Not Very Chinese Rice. But do watch your portion control. Too much rice can make you fat. Really fat.

Not Very Chinese Rice
About 2 cups of Basmati rice (rinsed in cold water)
1 dessertspoon of yeast extract (ensure it is gluten-free, here's one)
1 carrot
4 medium mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 large pinch of dried Herbes de Provence
4 medium tomatoes
1 tsp Dijon mustard (make sure it is gluten-free, here's one)
Olive oil to fry
1 tin of kidney beans (400g)
A handful of rocket
Half or all of an avocado (depending on taste)
2 green chillis
  • Put a large pan of water to boil.
  • Peel and finely chop the carrot.
  • Finely chop the garlic and the mushrooms.
  • When the water is boiling pour in the rice, the chopped carrot and the yeast extract and stir well to dissolve the yeast extract. As it boils, stir occasionally, Basmati usually takes about 10 minutes to cook.
  • Fry the mushrooms and garlic gently in a frying pan with the olive oil and Herbes de Provence.
  • Chop the tomatoes in half and squeeze their innards into the frying pan with mushrooms, stir. Discard the skins. Add the Dijon mustard to the frying pan and stir it all around.
  • Drain the tin of kidney beans and add to the frying pan. Stir again and let it all sizzle quietly while you wait for the rice.
  • When the rice is cooked drain it and leave it for a few minutes so that most of the steam evaporates. Put the rice back into the saucepan and tip in the contents of the frying pan.
  • Mix it all around. Cover for a minute while you dice the avocado and finely chop the green chillis.
  • Place the required amount of chilli and avocado onto each serving plate and dollop the required amount of rice on top.
  • Throw a handful of rocket on top of the rice and then using your hands quickly toss it all together. Do it quickly or you’ll burn your hands.
  • Season with black pepper and decorate with a flower if you wish.
  • Do not eat the flower.

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007Food & Drink Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Brom said...

That reminds me... I really must start my diet.

Different countries with different customs, it's all in the mix.

It can be nice though whan someone squeezes your knee at the dinner table. Sometimes.

mutterings and meanderings said...

The food looks fab and the story made me giggle. I bought a Weightwatchers magazine tonight, but am catering for the family on Saturday evening, so it may have to wait (weight? :)) til Monday ...

Stay at home dad said...

Compared to some Chinese, er, delicacies the flower would be very pleasant...

rilly super said...

We must all tread carefully I think PITK, lest you received any training from the Shoalin monks when you were in China. I have seen those chaps in action in Leicester Square at new year time and I now fear that if I made the slightest mistake with this recipe, which I am very tempted to try, you would come around and break a chopping board over my head. I'm afraid my knowledge of the language and cuisine is not as comprehensive as your own but I confess to leaning over the counter to watch the girl at our local takeaway write down the order. I understand the tonal issue is very hard for westerners to grasp because a subtle error can cause quite a grave incident so you did very well to master it I should think

beta mum said...

A friend and I spent some time in Guangzhou, and got really fed up with being served slimy mushrooms with everything - even breakfast.
We were relieved to get to Macau, where we could get croissants for breakfast.
Terriby euro-centric, but we just couldn't cope with them first thing in the morning.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Brom, good luck with the need stay off the Belgian beer, that will help!

M&M, ditto good luck for diet, weightwatchers sounds hard core,enjoy your last weekend of not counting food points!

SAHD, you are very right. One of our friends once selected the toad he wanted to eat from the big fish tank by the door. In an indecently short time it was placed steaming in front of him....eeeewwww!

Rilly, how wise and intuitive you are. What I don't know about Shaolin fighting is really not worth knowing. My weapon of choice is a rolling pin and I demand strict adherence to my menus. The language was a steep learning curve...I once had to resort to the very british bellow as could not get taxi driver to stop for love nor money. My tones clearly needed some refinement...

Beta Mum, completely understand the mushroom thing. Some 'restaurants' had me retching as I went through the door. I still remember with fondness being shown to the toilet in a restaurant. It was a bucket in the cupboard under the stairs. I had already eaten my food and shuddered for the hands that had prepared it...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

The bucket was already half full, forgot to add that detail.

Drunk Mummy said...

Dear Pig, I love it when rudeness gets so extreme that you can only laugh at it - and it loses all its sting. Your description of the hotel Business Centre staff cracked me up. I loved the pic of the vomiting pumpkin too!

Around My Kitchen Table said...

What a great blog! A friend suggested I drop by and my response was, "Why would I want to read postings about food for people with allergies?" She smiled knowingly and said, "Have a look and you'll see why I like it."
So I did.. and I do!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Drunk Mummy, it was a very surreal moment, I wanted to shake my head like a dog with water in its she REALLY saying that, RIGHT in front of me??!! It still makes me laugh!

Around my kitchen table (or may I call you amkt?)welcome and thank-you for your kind words! I am beaming. And thank-you to your friend too!

spymum said...

PITK, that is so funny! Rapier wit girlfriend!

Those cheeky hotel staff - go on, weren't you just a teensy little bit tempted to go and thank them on their weight loss comments in Mandarin? That would have been so coool!!

Yummy recipe!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Spymum, thank-you for your kind comments! I literally was speechless, I walked out of the room in a daze!!!!

lowood6 said...

My goodness, they're so rude... I mean, your hubby's boss - perhaps cultural thing, but the young girls - they're just rude. I admire your determination in getting the kilos off + I see the same determination makes you successful in getting the recipes right. I need that sort of determination - have beein gaining kilos since finding your blog! I'll try this rice for Chinese NY today ;-)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

lowood6, yes, very rude! but also rather funny. I'm battling with kilos post-xmas as well...good luck with your fight! and thanks for reminder about Chinese NY, I'd forgotten! Xin nian kuai le!

Anonymous said...

if you have chance,go to museum, check out Tang painting about famels. they all plump.
That happens only when the country is rich, like Roman in the past, US is now.