Monday, October 25, 2010
please help! what is this Chinese condiment?
This random jar has been sitting in my fridge for several months now. I cautiously dip in and out of it occasionally. What is it? All that Chinese that I can't read! Can you please help me?
It's a slightly odd story of how I got this jar of mystery stuff. I didn't buy it at my local store as a try-me ingredient. Oh, no. It was destined for greater things than my refrigerator, this jar, but never made it there. The story goes like this.
My parents have a Chinese student as a lodger. They live in Canada, and Jeff (his English name) is going to university in their city. But when Mum and Dad came to visit me we all went up to Shenzhen to visit his mother. We got the royal tour around the city, her house, and her business, with the help of a translator. We ate some extremely tasty food with her extended family--none of whom spoke English. We had massages, stayed the night, and then returned the next day to Hong Kong.
Jeff's mum packed up a big bag of things to send to him in Canada. He complains about my mother's cooking: "too bland!" So this jar of goopy, spicy stuff was for him. His mother also collected dried spices, oils, vinegars, and some packet mixes. A huge bagful of goodies from home for the lonely foodie.
Jeff's care package was dutifully packed up by my parents. But the inevitable happened: some items were too heavy, others too breakable. As a result, I inherited a bottle of Chianking vinegar (a regular appearance-maker in my cooking now), and this baffling bottle.
What has been sad for Jeff has been a gift for me. I started to cook with this spicy sauce anyway. After heating the oil in a pan, I put a small (infinitesimal at first!) spoonful in. The smell it gives off is spicy and strong. Then I add a huge panful of greens or fry up some special fried rice, and the flavour is hot and deep. I like it a lot--and I'd like to know to how to use it properly.
Who can please put me out of my suspense? What is this bizarre condiment? How can I make the most of it?