Tag Archives: beef

The Best Chinese Food Ever

5 Aug

I have a quite long relationship with the Chinese cuisine.  When a graduate student (around 30 years ago) Chinese restaurants were my favorite ones, and for very practical reasons, they were cheap and didn´t charge for white rice. Thus, we used to go in small groups, usually three or four students, order one single protein dish and fill our adolescent and always empty stomachs with lots of starch.  By the way, the jasmine tea was also free.

After I got my first job and moved to Rio Grande I became friends with a Chinese family, the Chao (Labish, Lien and Don), who then introduced me to Chinese cooking.  With them I’ve learned to prepare several dishes, including a beef and pork dumpling which is a regular part of our family meals in very special occasions.  Once I even prepared a Chinese dinner for them, so that Lien could evaluate my cooking skills.  She approved my cooking, of course (I bet she did it not because they tasted good, but mainly because she was a good friend and didn’t want to hurt my feelings).

A couple of years ago we’ve received a Chinese exchange student, Becky Feng, who besides teaching me some authentic dishes also served as a judge of my Chinese culinary skills.

This continuous relationship with Chinese people and cooking has already produced two posts in the past: Chinese Style Chicken and Noodle Soup and Another Chinese Inspired Meal.

So, no wonder I had to visit a Chinese restaurant during my last trip to São Paulo, where Brazilian largest Chinese community lives.

A general view of the "Liberdade" neighborhood in São Paulo/SP/Brazil

A chose the restaurant Chi-Fu, at Praça Carlos Gomes 200 – Bairro da Liberdade, mainly because I’ve been told that the Chinese Mafia holds its meeting on the upper floors of the restaurant. If Chi-Fu food is good enough for the Chinese Mafia, than it’s good enough for me.

Front of "Chi Fu" restaurant, in São Paulo/SP?Brazil

Let’s make it clear from the start:  I don’t know if the Chinese Mafia meets at this restaurant, in fact I don’t even really care if they do, but let me tell you, I had my best restaurant meal ever.  No, not only the best Chinese meal, the best restaurant meal of any origin. The food was superb.

Choosing the dishes was a hard task, as a wide variety of mouth-watering offers are part of the menu.  After some discussion we (my wife, our friends Renan and Leila, and I) decided to play rather safe and ordered 3 dishes:  noodles with beef (the safest choice), sweet and sour pork and roasted duck (a special offer that day). Tea was already on the table, and bowl of white rice was also ordered.

Noodles and beef (Chi Fu Restaurant - São Paulo/SP/Brazil)

The pasta was prepared in the house and cooked properly. The vegetables were crispy as they should be.  There was a nice smoky taste on the dish which I believe may be the result of toasted sesame seed oil.  Perfect.

Sweet and sour pork (Chi Fu Restaurant - São Paulo/SP/Brazil)

I don’t really know how to describe this dish, as it was, as the name implies, made of perfectly batter coated  pork, with a very well balanced sweet and sour taste. The meat was so tender it nearly melted in your mouth. I could spend days eating this pork non-stop.

But for me the real star was the duck.

Roasted duck (Chi Fu Restaurante - São Paulo/SP/Brazil)

Roasted to perfection… and the skin, oh Lord, the skin…crispy with a layer of fat underneath…shinning like the jewel it really was.  Just priceless.

As I mentioned above, I’ve had Chinese food prepared by a variaty of people, from humble restaurants when I was a student, to home cooking at my friend Chao home, I’ve also been to Chinatown in New York and London, but I had never had any experience like this.

I’m more than sure that the chef and cooks from Chi Fu will go heaven when they die, as that’s the food God will want to be served at his home.

Peking Duck

Sweet and Sour Pork

Chinese Sweet & Sour Pork

Mexico – Guess I’ll have to go

4 Jun

Oh, Mexico
It sounds so sweet with the sun sinking low
Moon’s so bright like to light up the night
Make everything all right

(Mexico, James Taylor)

The year of  1974 marks one of the most important events of my life:  I went to the US as an exchange student.  The experiences I had the opportunity to live in the small and wonderful town of Carthage/MO with the Ross family (Larry, Gail, Don, Shellie and Billy), and where I got my high school degree at the class of ’75, have left permanent marks on my personality and abilities.

I’d like here to mention two of these experiences:

First – I was introduced to the music of James Taylor, of whom I became a huge fan.  Playing his songs on my guitar after I’ve returned to Brazil made me score some extra points with the local girls, including with my actual wife Maristela.  The few words at the beginning of this post are from “Mexico”, a song from his 1975 album “Gorilla” (my favorite one is “Sweet Baby James”, from 1970).

Second – I had my first contact with Mexican food.  My wonderful and unforgettable American mother (Gail) prepared a very nice “chili con carne”, which we would eat with hard shelled tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.  To this day we still prepare a variation of that dish, which has been incorporated in our regular menus at home.  I say it’s a variation because I have changed the original recipe along the time, incorporating new spices and changing proportions to better suit my personal taste.  In fact I don´t even know if  Gail´s recipe was really Mexican.

Nachos, chilli con carne, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Don't forget the hot sauce.

My “chili con carne” recipe you can find at Foodista (see the link below).

As hot sauce I use a very simple mixture of tomato sauce and a pepper sauce (like Tabasco or Chili Willy).

When I have this dish my memories of Carthage and of the James Taylor’s song just seem to come alive and, as he says, “make everything alright“.

How authentic is this dish when compared to the real Mexican deal?  I have no idea, as I’ve never been to Mexico, nor to any respectable Mexican restaurant.  That’s one of the reasons I’m preparing myself to make a trip to Mexico, probably next October or November.

As James Taylor says in his song:

Oh, down in Mexico
I never really been so I don’t really know
Oh, Mexico
I guess I’ll have to go.

My Chili con Carne

This is why you’re fat

24 Mar

Have you visited the website “This is why you’re fat“?  Well, they sure do have some wonderful ideas on how to turn dreams into heart attacks.

Although my heart has already shown some signs of complaint, after seeing some of the wonderful pictures they have on the site I’ve decided to take my shot on the subject.

To tell you the whole story I have to confess that the final inspiration came from a show by Bobby Flay I happen to have watched on the net a few weeks ago, as he is not presenting his skills on Brazilian television.  That was the first, as well as the one and only show by Bobby Flay I have ever watched (please, don’t ask me for the season and episode number, as I don’t have the slightest idea).  On that show, Mr. Flay and a female guest (famous???????, not on this side of the world) each prepared his/her own version of an American classic:  hamburgers.  Here is my version (clearly inspired on theirs):

1.  A homemade bun. I used a classical and rustic bread recipe – take a look at “Our Daily Bread“. They didn’t mention, but I bet the production bought theirs on a supermarket just around the corner – not as good though;

2.  Butter fried onions to which I added my secret BBQ sauce recipe.  I say “secret” because it seems every American man (and I bet quite a few women too) seems to have his own secret recipe.  Mine is simple: catchup, some water, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chilli sauce and some Kentucky Bourbon (after all it’s an American sauce);

3.  Pork and beef hamburgers (1:1) seasoned with some salt and chopped spring onions;

4. Slices of cheddar cheese;

5.  Fried slices of bacon;

6. Lettuce;

7. Tomatoes;

8. Homemade onion rings (flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, 1 well beaten egg with some milk)

8. Freshly prepared mayonese (2 egg yolks – one raw and one boiled – Dijon mustard to taste, few drops of lemon, pinch of salt, whisk oil into the mixture a few drops at a time – keep it smooth).

This is why you're fat - My version of an American classic

Man, let me tell you…that was good, specially considering it was eaten with some cold Mexican beer with a slice of lime.

Hamburgers on FoodistaHamburgers

“Churrasco”, the Brazilian BBQ

3 Sep

The most southern Brazilian state is Rio Grande do Sul, the larger part of which, as well as parts of Uruguay and Argentina, is covered by the pampas.  From these flat lands, with a vegetation which favours cattle raising, comes some of the best meat in the world.

Using this wonderful meat, the “gauchos”, designation of the South American cowboys as well as residents of the Rio Grande do Sul state, developed a particular way to prepare BBQ, here called “churrasco”:  plenty of meat, coarse sea salt as condiment and wood or charcoal fire.  If you season the meat with anything different from salt, or if you don’t use wood or charcoal, you can’t call that a “churrasco”. And this is not a matter of opinion, it’s the law.  And when I say the law, I mean it.  This whole thing is so important in Rio Grande do Sul that it has found its place in the state legislation (State Law RS no. 11,929/2003).

The Brazilian “churrasco” is equivalent to the “parrillada” in Uruguay and Argentina, also prepared by “gauchos”.

One of the most common beef cuts employed are ribs, which are slowly grilled, at times for more than 6 hours, resulting in a very, very tender meat that almost detaches itself from the bone.  Nevertheless, due to high fat content, the meat remains juicy and tasty. You can see here a young fellow preparing “picanha” (rump steak, I believe), another common cut (notice the fat and the amount of salt used).

Well, ribs are what I had for dinner last night over Renan’s house, a very nice friend who remembered me when he decided to prepare some “churrasco”.

The "churrasco" pit ("churrasqueira") with some pork sausages and the beef ribs

The "churrasco" pit ("churrasqueira") with some pork sausages and the beef ribs (note that the ribs are grilled with the bone side down, being turned only 10-15 min before serving)

The perfect rib after a couple of hours over the fire: very tender and juicy

The perfect rib after a couple of hours over the fire: very tender and juicy

Hope Renan keeps remembering me for quite a long time.

Beef Rib on Foodista

On a cast iron stove

7 Jul

One of my pleasures during the winter (and it’s winter here) is to cook on a cast iron stove we have in the kitchen.  My wife usually lights it up as soon as she wakes up, as it’s used both for cooking as well as for heating (yes, we have air conditioning too, but sorry, I can’t cook on it).  It’s very nice for cooking old recipes using not so tender ingredients, demanding long cooking times, and a cast iron pan.

Cast iron stove in my kitchen

Cast iron stove in my kitchen

Last weekend I prepared some beef ribs with manioc roots (the largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world – yes, more than rice).  The best thing about this dish is the sauce, of course.  Small diced onions, garlic, tomatoes, red pepper, half a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, black pepper corns, salt to taste. Let the meat cook slowly for a couple of hours (be careful not to let the water dry out) and then add the manioc.  Cook for an additional hour and after sprinkling some fresh parsley on top you’re ready to go.  If possible eat the sauce with some Italian bread.

Beef ribs with manioc

Beef ribs with manioc

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