I've been a Fuchsia Dunlop fangirl for several years. And Shriya mentioned she'd like to attend a cookbook meet with different kind of dumplings. It's another thing we didn't end up making any for this meet. But it did make me start looking up books around Asian cooking.
And I don't know why, it was either an Andre Nguyen book for me or then a Fuchsia Dunlop one. Narrowing down all available options and keeping a more generic Chinese cuisine in mind, we picked Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Fish and Rice.
Making the beggar's chicken was a no-brainer for me. Only, lotus leaves are tough to come by here, so I used banana leaves instead. The chicken was extremely moist and flavourful despite several hours of cooking. And I was a happy puppy - for having tried something new AND having had the dish (the cooking of the insides was obviously a surprise till the very end) turn our so juicy and tasty. I'm also a fan of jammy eggs eaten typically with ramen, so I thought I'd make some smoked duck eggs. Unfortunately, I botched up the cooking time, so the eggs were more hard-boiled than jammy. The recipe also called for smoking them on a bed of tea leaves. I followed the recipe to a tee but the eggs didn't take on a tea-like flavour, nor did they have a smoky flavour. So I'm really not sure what I did wrong. But when *does* anyone have boiled egg leftovers? They *did* get finished that evening. Of course, they did.
Shriya really wanted to make some duck. So she made the saltwater duck. To make things a little different for herself, she also made the red braised fish. Shriya also brought in some stir-fried pak choy to complement all the non-vegetarian food she had cooked.
Swapnil is always good with meats, so it was no surprise when he picked the chicken with young ginger and the red braised pork belly. The basic recipe for the fish and the pork seemed very similar. But they tasted so vastly different, it was pleasantly surprising.
Suraj felt a little like Shriya too, so he decided to make a vegetarian dish and he made the cool steamed aubergine with a garlicky dressing. I always like to joke how he enjoys being a mallu (Malayali, for the uninitiated) more often than not. So when he said he wanted to make the Shanghai Fried Rice, despite knowing Swapnil is on Keto, I could only laugh.
We met at Swapnil's house, gaga-ed over all the art he has hung up in his home, spoke a little about growing up in the late eighties and the early nineties and before we knew it, it was 1 am.
All in all, very simple food. Yet very flavourful. I've read about Jiangnan cuisine since. And I do believe when this article says:
The food in Jiangnan is known for its gentleness...