So, the baby squid…

18 04 2007

…were probably not worth the trouble, but if we only ever did the things that were, would we learn anything? Cleaning them was a slimy affair reminiscent of early biology dissections, so little did I recognize the parts I pulled—taking hold of the head firmly just beside the eyes—from the mantle, yet so clearly were they parts: gills, intestines, even glands and the hearts of whose multiple existence, indifferentiable to my eyes from the innard mass, I had later to be informed by anatomical schematics—though once I swore to have identified ovaries and their smeary roe, if those are the words. The feathered gills I knew from other fish and seafood. I ruptured only two ink sacs (of twelve), and sacrificed several fins to separating skin from mantle. The cartilaginous spine came out easily each time, though I never got a clear look at the beak, nestled among the edible tentacles, to compare it to a bird’s. It too was easily removed, a hard but never really sharp little nodule, in my fingers. I’ve no aversion to fish eyes but for some reason tried not to meet, consider, or even register beneath my fingers these orbs which, I’ve read, contain a hard lens functioning much like the that of a camera or telescope when focusing: “Rather than changing shape, like a human eye, it moves mechanically.” Tentacles, mantles—the tiny clumps and fibrous tops I might’ve sliced into the more familiar rings of calamari—all these I tossed in olive oil with garlic and sautéed. I hacked a pineapple into cubes while waiting. Back home, I would’ve found a pineapple too troublesome. The secret to a pineapple is a sharp knife.

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I See Your Wok Kung Fu is Weak

3 12 2006

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My genetic predisposition to cooking with a wok has yet to kick in. The stainless steel one left me is about as wieldy as a pioneer’s cast iron skillet, though admittedly much easier to clean. The superior heat conduction of the wok just means bits of food I chase up the sides are also scorching to the pan at the same time stuff at the bottom is deep frying. My dishes are regrettably uninfused with wok hei.





Pom

13 11 2006

The pomegranate is, in the sorry event you neglected to Google how to eat it before diving in, the crayfish of fruits: a chore for the fingers, with very little reward. Bites, small and few, paced by tiresome peeling and picking, are ritually punctuated by the spitting of seeds, which although edible, are bitter. Imagine an orange with the fibers of each slice enlarged, each made a sac to house a seed. The skin is neither thick nor difficult to remove. The pith peels easily away from the seed sacs. What little flesh there is—mostly liquid—jets out at the slightest pressure, staining clothes. Your tongue tries to press the remaining juice from the fibrous mass inside your mouth before giving up and relinquishing it to the plate.





Distinctions

18 10 2006

The word for scallion is cong (pronounced tsoong). Scallions are the same as green or spring onions. Onions are literally White Man’s Scallions (yáng cong). Shallots are Small White Man’s Scallions (xǐao yáng cong). Chives, however, are jǐu caì, though in French the chive (ciboulette) is a diminutive of the spring onion (ciboule). The Chinese call their leeks (poireaux) Chinese Chives—not to be mistaken for the Flowering Chive, whose blossoms (jǐu caì hua), lightly stir-fried, are a popular side.

As  the Bard would have it, “Eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath.”