Oh, Chengdu…

…you had me at ‘Hello.’

As if Rabbit’s Head and Stinky Tofu on a stick, and Pork Lung stew wasn’t enough, today was a deep delicious dive into the history and foundations of this marvelous cuisine.

But first, a Panda break…

…and now back to our regularly scheduled post…breakfast at our hotel is a wonderful fantasy of mine: what if breakfast was just like dinner? What if you could have stir fried peppers, savory noodles, and steamed meat buns for breakfast? Or a freshly prepared bowl of noodle soup? I am in heaven. AND there’s COFFEE (finally — not even NesCafé! The real deal!).
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Beijing Dumplings

As 10am approached, I packed up my projects and we headed around and around the corners of the warren until we found Black Sesame Kitchen again, this time with the bright sun streaming through their windows. Coco and Michelle and Chefs greeted us again. Unlike when we were the first to arrive for dinner the previous evening, we were among the last to arrive to a full class of 11 international adults learning how to make basic Chinese dumplings “from scratch.”

Here’s how to make a handmade dumpling.
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Beijing Black Sesame

First order of business: buy a cheap mobile phone…sound familiar?

After our long bike ride, we took a shower and changed closed because we were DRENCHED with sweat. That felt a lot better, and Alison promptly fell asleep on the bed. As much as I wanted to do the same, it was 5pm and I needed to get a phone to be able to communicate with the tour guides on our next two stops.

I went back to the busy street near our hotel, and thankfully everything was now open. I scanned each shop on the side of the street where I remember seeing the shop and eventually it appeared: a small stall, no bigger than a closet with a glass case displaying his wares — many different iPhone types, and then a few cheepo Nokias. Perfect! RMB200 later (I’m sure I should have haggled and I’m sure I was over charged, but $35 for a new Nokia seemed fine to me…) I waked out with a working, texting phone! I immediately texted Michael’s number, and he immediately texted me back. Hooray!

Having gotten that done so quickly, I decided to figure out where Black Sesame Kitchen was located — we had signed up for a dumpling class there on Saturday. It’s also in a hutong, not far from our Courtyard 7 Hotel hutong, except they were located in a small bit that had been built into the courtyard space by subsequent generations of residents over the centuries, so you entered a gate into is best described as a “warren” turning left, then right, then right, then right, then left every few steps until you enter a small open space in front of Black Sesame Kitchen. I was greeted by Coco, one of the workers who speaks English, and I confirmed that I would arrive for the dumpling class the following day. She asked: where will you eat tonight? I said that we would like to find a nice duck restaurant, and she told me where she likes to eat duck, but then she said: Would you like to eat here? She showed me the menu, written up on a small chalkboard on the wall, and it looked like a compilation of many many dishes that I’ve cooked, or wanted to cook, but would love to experience when done by a skilled chinese chef. She said they had two open spaces around the two communal tables they sit people at, so I said I would ask my wife and get back to them.

The BSK space is probably no more than 100 feet from our hotel room, but, as they say in Maine, “you can’t get there from here.” Still its only a five minute walk around the warrens and the lanes, and when I described the option to Alison she enthusiastically said YES so I confirmed and we showed up at 7:00pm on the dot.
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Cranberry Maple Pear Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My good friend Sophie posted this on Facebook this morning.  Sounds great, so in light of Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought I would share it.

Cranberry Maple Pear Pie
by Sophie Christine Bratton on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 11:39pm ·

3 C. fresh or frozen cranberries
1 lb. pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 C. Maple Syrup
4½ tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 TBSP cold water
In a saucepan combine cranberries, syrup and pears; bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes or until the cranberries have popped.
Stir the cornstarch mixture, add it to the cranberry mixture and simmer, stirring, for 1 minute or until it is thickened.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let it cool.  This mixture may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled.
Make a recipe of pie dough from your favorite recipe.
Divide the dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other.
Roll out the larger ball of dough 1/8-inch thick on a floured surface, fit into a 9-inch pie place, and trim the edge, leaving a ½-inch overhang.
Chill the shell while cutting the dough for the lattice crust.
Roll out the other ball of dough and cut out ½-inch strips of dough.
Spoon the filling into the shell, spreading it out evenly; arrange the lattice strips on top, twisting each strip corkscrew fashion.
Trim ends and crimp edges.
Bake at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Let cool on a rack.  Serve warm.