Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Eat Green (Page 2 of 4)

Agrilicious

After moving to US from China, what I miss the most is the Chinese fresh markets. They look like Farmer’s Markets here in US, but imagine that having it everyday in both early morning and late afternoon, always in walking distance, with breakfast carts, and offering every fresh produce that you would need to cook an authentic meal.

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Chinese are used to getting fresh ingredients daily. When I was a child, my parents would stop at the fresh market on their way home, pick up a couple different kind of veggies and a strip of meat, and cook all into a dinner. They would also pick up a handful of eggs and a couple bags of milk for breakfast next morning. Because things are cooked and eaten the same day, many Chinese family have only a small fridge under the kitchen counter – there is neither fresh produce nor much leftovers to store. This practice does not only guarantee the freshness of the food, but also encourage the exercise of portion control and eliminate food waste.

Vegetables at Beijing fresh markets

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Meat and eggs

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Fish and seafood product

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One thing the fresh markets in China differs from American farmer’s markets, is that the produce sold in Chinese fresh market are mostly productions from industry-scale farms and factories. It is not guaranteed organic.

I do not think anything organic can grow to this size…

Size matters

The sellers at the booth are also not farmers, but distributors. Farmers near Beijing sell their produce to government-owned distribution centers outside of the city. At the distribution centers, goods are inspected, cleaned, processed if necessary, then picked up by fresh market sellers in bulk before dawn. The goods are then transported inside Beijing to all the fresh markets and sold in retail value. The price and the quality of the goods are controlled by the government, as part of the “Vegetable Basket Project”, which ensure low price for general public.

Fresh fruit at Beijing fresh markets

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Chinese fresh market offers not only meat, fish and fresh produce like vegetable and eggs, but also tofu, dry spices, ready-to-cook noodles, and Chinese versions of bread (ManTou, DaBing, and HuaJuan). So they are really the one-stop shop for all the food you need for a dinner. There are also many of them in Beijing – almost one in every a few city blocks. They are conveniently located near major traffic stops, such as subway stations, light rail stations, or outside of big apartment complexes. So people can easily pick up their food on the way home without making detours or driving.

Tofu stand – how many different kind of tofu do you eat?

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More tofu

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Cooking wine

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Spice – ginger, garlic, and onions and leek

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Dy spice heaven

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If you do not feel like cooking, fresh markets also offer ready-to-eat or ready-to-boil items. Cold cuts and smoked meat, hand-made noodles, frozen dumplings, steamed buns, and endless snacks.

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Pickles

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Hand-made noodles

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Dry goods, nuts

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Sunflower seeds in every flavor

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Mornings are the most popular time for Beijing fresh markets. Not only elderly and retirees choose to stop by to get food for the day, people who work 9-5 also stop by for a quick breakfast. Fresh market offers breakfast food carts, basically eliminated the needs for cooking breakfast at home if you have a commute. However, most of the people who have the leisure to slowly browse the markets, are still elder people. Walking to the market, having a sit-down breakfast, taking time to decide what to eat that day, poking fruits and veggies to make sure they are juicy to the liking, filling their small shopping carts, and walking slowly back to their apartments with the price, are the first exercise during the day.

Small shopping carts are necessity

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I miss the fresh markets dearly when I live in US. I miss the one-stop-for-all convenience, I miss the hot tofu soup and buns for breakfast, and I miss the people, the bargaining, and the noise. For the most, I miss the luxury of getting fresh produce everyday, which seems too time-consuming in my adopted culture. I wish that there were a small market I could walk to everyday, instead of driving 15 minutes one way. I wish that I do not have to do meal planning and end up eating half-rotten spinach for the second part of the week…Well, a girl can dream.

How often do you do grocery shopping? Do you eat fresh veggie everyday? Do you use meal-plan? Or you are lucky to live across the street to a supermarket where you shop a little bit everyday?

Saturday is for pies!

We have been having “Saturday Pie Day” for a while. Most of the Saturdays we do not work, so I have a pretty relaxing Saturday routine, including yoga in the morning, hearty brunch, long afternoon nap, and bake a pie in the evening.

So this is how our Saturday Pie Day works: we have a pie recipe book (more on this later); during the week, hubby picks out a pie he wants from this book, and I bake it on Saturday! This methods sounds a bit childish, but it works really well – for one, we get to try a large varieties of pies. if it was up to me, we would have peach pie every single week. (Fun fact: I have been having the same instant noodle, the exactly same flavor and same brand as lunch every workday for YEARS.) Hubby on the other hand, always picks a pie he had not previously had. He also tends to pick a pie with different texture or made in different crust from the week before. For me, it challenges me to try different techniques and learned a lot more about the traditional ways of pie-making.

Our experience on trying different pies are surprisingly positive. First the recipes in this pie book are pretty solid. Moreover, these recipes are very authentic – these are pies that you only see on the menu of family deli on the Great Plain. Hubby discovered his love for custard pie, and I just adore the process of make them. They are so easy to make (without turning on the oven!) AND they usually require overnight refrigeration, which gives me massive pleasure to watch how hubby waits that night out. 😉

Now back to the book. There are lots pie books out there and everyone of them received mixed reviews. I like the METHOD of having a pie recipe book so we can pick something new, which is not easy to do on the internet because you cannot search what you do not know. But I do not feel very particular about this book vs other recipe books. This one does give 300+ recipes so again it fits our METHOD better. And I have not tried a recipe that is not good. Hubby absolutely loves this book. He keeps it on his desk, probably because it makes him feel important – he is a bit addicted to the power.

This pie book also presents crust recipes that I was not familiar before. And interestingly, when I testes these crust recipes against the ones highly praised on internet, we actually liked the ones from this book better. Before, 99% of time for fruit pies I use double butter crusts, but after trying different pie crusts, I pair berry pie and peach pie with quite a few different crusts now. Some recipes are pretty traditional, which is great conversation piece for parties. I was surprised when older folks were reminded their childhood pie by the pie I baked from this book. So now, whenever I bake for a gathering, I always pick a recipe from this book.

It feels nice to have some regular family activity going on – it makes me feel more grounded and secure. We had a long-standing tradition of outdoor Saturday back to California. It will be interesting to see what strikes us next when we move to our next city.

So, what is your fun family activity?

Chinese Tea

I recently read this post about different kind of tea that are popular in Chinese culture. It was definite the best representation of what people drink every day in China. Tea is still, even in modern days, the most popular drinks in China. Instead of soft drinks, tea products like green ice tea or green ice tea remains the best-selling causal drinks. At home, people drink quite a bit of hot tea even in summer.

The most popular kinds of tea include: green tea, yellow tea, white tea, black tea and Jasmine flower tea. Each of these kind tea can be produced in different location around China, but usually a specific location is more famous producing one of them because of the soil type and climate. There are also more specialized tea such as Oolong or brick tea from the southwest. People usually drink tea with porcelain cups with lids. My grandfather had one red cup that he used to drink Jasmine tea for decades. This is the only thing I asked to have after he passed away and it still smells like Jasmine.

It is quite important to Chinese to drink full-length, loose tea leaves produced from the most recent year. Most of the people do not drink tea bags and it is considered not in such good quality. Moreover, it is a pretty big deal to have tea from the most recent Spring. My parents buy new tea leaves every May because most of the tea are produced in March and April. And their last year’s tea is usually used for cooking instead of drinking. Since I moved to U.S. my parents have been getting new tea for me every spring and mailing it to the States. The postage is usually more expensive than the tea but it is just not possible to get this year’s new tea in loose leaves in U.S.

Drinking tea benefits my life in so many ways – it helps me to drink more water during the day, it prevents me from drinking soft drinks and therefore keeps me on a low sugar-diet, it also forces me into a habit of mini-breaks – I had to leave me desk and walk to a kitchen area where the hot water kettle is and it takes my eyes off monitor at least every an hour. It also helps me to stop drinking coffee. I drunk a lot of coffee during graduate school, but I never felt good after coffee. I felt short-breathed and more anxious. It was silly that I thought that I had to drink coffee to “fit in”, because all the graduate students from U.S. drunk so much coffee. (Just like I “had to” drink beer at parties.) Then I matured a bit and discovered no one cared how I lived my life, at least not as much as I thought. So I started drinking tea as my main beverage again. Now I drink coffee very sparsely – only when I am truly sleepy but cannot walk it off and coffee became more effective for me too.

Give tea a try if you are not drinking it regularly. I think it will change anyone’s life for better. I am here to answer all the questions from the type of tea and containers for drinking/carrying hot tea. Also, if you can find a store selling loose leave tea, definitely give it a try and ask for tea leaves from the most recent year. It will make all the difference in your experience!

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