While we were being chauffeured around on our whirlwind tour of Jinan; the Missus's Foodie Uncle and Aunt were hard at work in the kitchen of the Missus's Grandmother's Sister. Well practiced hands were at work, creating dishes for a family dinner, moving with a well coordinated confidence that indicated a familiarity with the kitchen and the dishes that were being created.
There were a couple of dishes that were delightfully surprising; and one that brought back great memories for the Missus.
Everything started with Tofu with Xiang Chun Ya, a light coating of sesame oil adding a layer of flavor to the herbaceous Xiang Chun.
I seem to pick up at least one dish from almost everywhere we travel. Something that becomes a fairly regular item in our household. This was such a dish. It looks very simple, and actually is, but the flavors are wonderful.....
Yes, it is purple cabbage. But the sauce used was fabulous; sesame paste, sugar, and black vinegar, hits on the savory-sweet-sour flavor profile. But it was the addition of one surprise ingredient that got my attention....... wasabi! I remember taking my first bite, and telling the Missus, "this is great..... but I swear there's wasabi in this." Which the Missus verified. In this case the cabbage is blanched; when we've been making it at home, we just slice the cabbage a bit thinner, and serve it raw. We had this dish at a restaurant in Beijing a bit later on, but this was a better, more complex version. Now that I've done this post, I can share the recipe in the near future.
The Missus reacquainted Herself with a dish that had faded from Her memory.
These cakes are made with glutinous corn meal, studded with dried dates, and steamed. Sweet and savory, it's like a moister-sweeter wo-wo tou. The fragrance is memorable, as is the density of these cakes. It was so filling I could only manage half a cake...... but no worries, the Missus finished Hers, and then put my remaining half away with no problem. The Missus later told me that these are even better the next day, when they are sliced, fried, and covered in sugar! I can only say that these were way better than anything resembling a wo-wo tou I've ever had.
There was something I learned in our time in QingDao and Jinan, it was the strength of family. You see, I was brought up in a single parent household, and my mother never did keep in really close contact with our relatives. Over the years I have come to treasure my good friends, they are like my family, and I have been blessed to know such wonderful people. But here, in a country six thousand miles away from home, the power of family was taught to me. Distance and time are just numbers, a strong sense of family supersedes all numbers..........
While sitting in the airport in Jinan, the Missus and I lamented the biggest mistake we made on this trip.....
Which was only spending one night in Jinan. We both wished that we had planned for more time. It's a mistake we won't make next time!