Jackfruit Is the King!

Have you seen this in the supermarket and wonder what it is?  The name is jackfruit, not durian.  It is not a huge monster but rather a delicious fruit. In fact, it is the largest tree-borne fruit on Earth.  Once you try it,  I promise you will come back for a second!

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One fruit can go up to 100 pounds! This “small” one I got at my local Meijer weighs more than 20 pounds. (FYI: $1.49/Ib for whole, $2.29/Ib for cut.)

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Cut open the fruit longitudinally to expose the yellow fresh (the avrils), the first thing that hits your nose is the fragrance!  The aroma! You will totally ignore the scary look of the cut surface.

First, I use a sharp knife to remove the white center core, this helps to expose the yellow fresh that in-bedded in the fibrous chambers (the rags). It is much easier that it looks, just dig in and get messy.  There are lots of fruits! So it’s time for jackfruit party!

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The avril is meaty and DELICIOUSLY sweet, with a taste all its own.  Some says it tastes like mango, some says peach or banana; while others say juicy fruit gum. It is not.  The literal Chinese translation of jackfruit is “pineapple honey 菠萝蜜”, it doesn’t taste like pineapple, not even close.  You have to try it yourself.

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Don’t throw away the leftover once the flesh is removed.  The rags are edible!

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Recently my mother visited us, she made this rag stirfry for us.  She removed the rags from the rinds, and soaked them overnight in water, and stir-fried with carrots. They are refreshing, but a bit bland to my taste.  Next time, I will try to stir-fry with some hot chili pepper or cumin to boost the flavor.

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There is a smooth stone inside each fruit, don’t throw it away since that is the third edible part of the jackfruit.  Collect the stones, cook them like you boil potatoes!  I boil them with little salt for about half an hour. They even taste like potato!  However the skin outside the stone is much harder than potato skin.

Lot of people confuse jackfruit with another tropical fruit, durian (a nasty fruit in my opinion).  They look similar, both are big with bumpy green skin.  But they taste different like day and night. It is also personal. My cousin in Shanghai thinks the flesh of durian resemble high-end quality soft cheese, such an delicacy to her; however, it smells and tastes like something rotten to me. Yikes!

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If a whole fruit is too much for you, especially for someone who never had this before. Meijer also sells cut jackfruit, a quarter or a piece of the whole fruit.  A good option to test the water.  Also if you can’t finish the whole fruit, the flesh and the stones freeze well, you can store away the fruits for later enjoyment.  Just make sure to remove the flesh from the rags and take out the stone, and freeze them separately.

My whole family love this fruit, even my picky teenage daughter! So give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

How to Loose a Tea Brick

Many of my friends have a beautiful tea brick somewhere inside the house.  It may be a gift received or purchased during one of the China trips. However it just sits there because they haven’t figured out how to chip a small piece off the brick as recommended or suggested.

Are you one of them? Loosing the tea brick is actually easier than you think.

You need:

  1. a steamer pot with a perforated stack, the pot should be wide enough to hold the tea brick flat.
  2. water, at least an inch deep in the pot, but not too deep to touch the tea tray
  3. a mitten
  4. a flat tray, as a working surface for breaking and drying the tea. I use my cookie sheet lined with paper to absorb the moist.
  5. tea jar and/or any container, to store the loosened tea

First, prepare the steam pot by bringing water to boil.  Then carefully (hot steam) put the tea brick on the steamer stack, close the lid.  Set a timer for FIVE minutes.  That is right, all you need is to steam the tea brick for no more than five minutes!

While the tea is being steamed, get your mitten ready.  When the time is up, use your mittened hand to take the tea out to the tray.  The edge of the brick will be slightly bendable and center still solid. Work QUICKLY with both hands. Start from the edge, breaking your way into the center of the brick. Once the broken pieces cool, they turn harden again; so you only have a few minutes of workable window.

I didn’t take any pictures while actually working on the tea brick.  Too busy!

Five-minute is a good time frame for my round pu’er tea brick, less than an inch in thickness. If your tea is thicker or thinner than mine, you may need to adjust one minute more or less of steaming period. As we all know, tea making is a delicate process.  The brief steaming here is to loose the binding of the tea only. Never we want to introduce excess moist, which will create all sort of problems, such as taste change, or worse, mold growth etc.

After the broken pieces cool and dry, it is time to store them away.  I usually put the chunks in a cloth bag and the loose tea into a jar.  Always use the loose tea first.

Well, I hope this article help and good luck with your tea brick! If you like, I appreciate you hit “like” at the bottom of this blog, and give me your feedback and thoughts. Bon AppeTEA!

 

Cuban Food, Cigars and Coffee

Cuba lies 90 miles south of Key West, FL, between the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, to the west of Haiti, east of Mexico and northwest of Jamaica.  Now I have been to each island mentioned above, except Haiti.  (hmm… Haiti)

Although this was my first time to Cuba, it was the 30th times for our team.  Year after year they showered compassion to the Cuban people providing the Cuban churches with generous material and spiritual support long before the lift of embargo. Each year new members were added to the Cuba team, we were so privileged to be part of this wonderful group.

Each year the team experienced a bit differently than the year before.  This time we stayed at the two beautiful guesthouses.

Barbara was the hostess of one guesthouse, and also our cook for breakfast. Each day breakfast began with a plate of fresh fruits of papaya, banana, guava and pineapple slices. Toasts were served with butter and home-made pineapple marmalade, the best I’ve ever had! Eggs were either fried or scrambled; probably because of our language barrier, Barbara thought “sunny side up” meant “natural” or raw egg.   Huh… no… I didn’t want to swallow a raw egg in the morning. 🙂

Barbara also served us deliciously home-made juice, such as papaya, guava or pineapple, and coffee. A word for Cuban coffee, it was STRONG! A little cup of the Cuban coffee would keep me going for a whole day! Coffee was served black, with sugar and/or heated whole milk. By the end of the week, I grew addicted to Cuban coffee.

Lunch at church was usually a simple sandwich with ham and cheese. Naturally we opted for lunch from street vendors in downtown Havana. This fried chicken (three pieces) costed only two dollars, juicy and full of flavor.

We had lunch out once at Matanzas. Great pork!

For something to munch on while scrolling the street, you might pick a bag of Churros for half a dollar or Corn on the cob with mayonnaise or a sprinkle of salt.

In Cuba, we used bottled water for drinking as well as for brushing teeth. The rule for shower in our guesthouse was to turn off the water whenever you were not ACTIVELY rinsing; otherwise you would suffer the consequence of running out of hot water.  I am speaking from my personal experience.  Also check whether you had water in the tank BEFORE you used the commode, otherwise you might risk have nothing to flush with.  Again, my personal experience. 🙂

Rice and Beans was Cuban’s staple dish.  We had rice and beans almost every night at church.  In my opinion, New Orleans had the best rice and beans, Cuban version came very close as the runner up. Our chefs knew how to make delicious Chicken and pork; we were told that beef and seafood were not readily available/affordable for common people.

Our last dinner was at a Chinese restaurant “Tien Tan 天璮饭店” in China town. If you missed seeing the archway at the entrance to Chinatown, you would not have guessed you were in China town. There were very few Chinese people and the structures of the many buildings resembled anything but China town. My hubby and I were the only Chinese we saw. 🙂

Finally, a few words about gifts.  Cuban cigars and coffee were the gifts we brought back home, they were easily available in Old Havana. Since the ease of travel to Cuba,  US customs lifts the import limits on Cuban cigars. If you are new to Cuban cigars, “Romeo y Julieta” and “Cohiba” are two popular brands. Also the coffee we purchased at the Old Havana tourist area was the identical price as in local market.

The Quest for the Exotic Stirfry

Whenever traveling to the Far East, I am always on the lookout for new vegetables to stir fry. Stir frying is my weekday go-to cooking since it is fast and healthy. If you can grow it, I can stir fry it. I recently added four more new vegetables on my list, hooray!

  1. Shansu 山蘇 (Hualien, Taiwan)
  2. Red Phoenix 红鳯菜 (New Taipei, Taiwan)
  3. Dragon Bean 龙豆 (Shanghai, China)
  4. Water Celery 水芹 (Suzhou, China)

Shansu (Asplenium) belongs to the fern families, one of oldest plants on earth. I first encountered shansu’s tender shoots when strolling along the night market of Hualien. I remembered thinking it would make a delicious stirfry!  The next day on the return route of hiking Shakadang Trail in Taroko Gorge, I spotted a field full of wild shansu, completely covered the hill on my left. This time I wondered about which condiments to pair with shansu, maybe roasted peanut? The following stir-fried dish showed the plate from a small restaurant in Tianxiang, there shansu was stir fried with a handful of tiny dried anchovies. Totally unexpected, but surprisingly delicious!

红鳯菜 literally means Red Phoenix (Gynura). I was attracted by the deep purple color in a three-table family-owned restaurant.  I asked the mom what the fresh vegetable looked like.  She run back to the kitchen, a few minutes later emerged with the colander filled with purple leaves. How sweet the people!

My cousins in Shanghai know about my quest.  Each time we go to visit her, they bring something new to the table to satisfy my curiosity. This time was no exception, I love them so much!

 

Here Dragon Beans were sliced and stir fried with lily bulbs (the white pieces). An unusual combination.  We had this dish in 全聚德, which was famous for its trademark Roasted Peking Duck.

This Water Celery was stir fried with garlic.  Garlic was the most common condiment for stirfry, the unexpected was Water Celery didn’t taste like celery at all!