Even though I am not Chinese, my family has lived amongst Chinese families as long as I can remember. In fact one of my sisters was married to a lovely Chinese who sadly died at a very early age (36 years old). We remember him fondly when we sit around my parents’ dining table and talk about ‘street food’ which he adored. He was often excited when he found a new noodle hawker who had the best noodles. He’d go out of his way to search one recommended by friends/colleagues and came back with bags of take away noodles, dumplings or other food which he knew we’d like to eat. He got great pleasure when we all agreed with him that it was the best noodles/dumplings etc.
I went to China 7 years a go, with my husband and daughter, to visit the country and travelled really well accompanied by a guide. It’s almost impossible to get around without one as very small number of people speak English and everything was written in Chinese characters. We hired a private guide who organized our day outings and places to eat. Unfortunately, though it wasn’t a problem, her/his idea of a restaurant was completely the opposite to ours. Theirs were big, banqueting style places where families and tourists would go to. Shanghai was the only city where we went around on our own. The centre is quite compact, we walked everywhere for the 4 days we were there and found all sorts of interesting places to eat. One was in a street where the labourers worked in the area.
That lunch cost us £5 for the 3 of us. Another time, we took the chance to go into a restaurant which we thought looking quite promising as it was full of office workers having their lunch. The menu was in Chinese and no translations. We ordered food by pointing to what the people sitting next to us were having and with very few Chinese words (seemed rude, but nobody minded, in fact they tried to explain it to us in their broken English what it was they were having) we managed to have a very delicious lunch.
The following is a typical Chinese New Year cake that I remember we used to get sent by our Chinese neighbours. It should last for the whole year but not in my family. This photo was sent by a friend who went to the same prep school as me. We just found each other again after nearly 50 years! Thanks to Facebook.
For today, I was planning to cook an Indonesian dish with Chinese influence, like this stir-fry. It’s called “Orak arik”, a Javanese word which means “scrambled”. I would say this does have Chinese influence as most of our own vegetable dishes tend to be eaten raw or steamed/half boiled to be mixed with some sort of sauce (peanut or coconut base).
We had it with some egg fried rice.
The recipe serves 4;
1 head of green cabbage, shredded finely without the hard core
4 carrots, peeled and grated or shredded in a Magimix (the largest whole grater)
2 large eggs
1 medium sized onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 red chilli (optional), no need to seed but can be
3 spring onions, cleaned and cut at an angle
salt and white pepper
2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
Heat a wok until hot. Pour in the oil and all the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook on high heat, and restrain from stirring it all the time. The mixture needs to get to almost brown tinged before the cabbage and the carrots are added. Stir the vegetables well. When they are slightly wilted, open out the centre part, and break the eggs right into the wok (see picture 2). Leave like this for a good 30 seconds until the white is almost opaque. Then mix the vegetables with the eggs, add in the white pepper (be generous).
Serve with the spring onion slices on top