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Delicious summer foods from China and Italy
2015-08-06
By Zhou Yubin and Daniel Balazs

Chef Feng Shaoxiang grabbed a handful of clams on sale at a local wet market and proclaimed: “Look how fresh and big they are!”

He then points to a sign advertising the mollusks for only 4 yuan (60 US cents) each. “And look how cheap they are! That’s why summer is the season for seafood,” the Chef de Cuisine at Yong Yi Ting Restaurant in Mandarin Oriental Pudong concluded with a smile.


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Eating the right food at the right time has long been a tradition in China. Confucius (551-479 BC) is credited with saying “bu shi bu shi (不时不食),” mean- ing “never eat anything that is not in season.” Of course, these words date to a pre-modern time when eating off- season foods could create serious health complications.

Today though, food storage and transportation technologies have greatly minimized such risks. Nevertheless, expert chefs like Feng still reach for the freshest ingredients possible as they always taste best.

A native of Yangzhou in east China’s Jiangsu Province, Feng’s signature dish is shizitou, or stewed meatballs. But as the seasons change, he mixes different ingredients into the meat: mussels in winter, clams in summer and crab meat in autumn. According to Feng, these ingredients pair well with the pork meat and add a special flavor to the meatballs.

“It’s also the best season to eat vegeta- bles now — such as luffa, green soybean, winter melon mushrooms,” Feng noted while passing a vegetable stall. Pumpkin, lettuce and edible amaranth are also among the most popular vegetables in summer, he says. All these vegetables have a light flavor and are believed to dispel dampness in the human body ac- cording to traditional Chinese medicine.

Feng’s Italian counterpart, Andrea Fraire, Chef de Cuisine at On 56 at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, voices similar views as he discusses the planning of his summer menu. Tomatoes or fresh tomato sauce are his top choices.

“Tomatoes are ripe enough in summer, they can give freshness to a dish,” he said. When discussing salads, which he describes as a perfect food for the sum- mer heat, he emphasizes the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I usually add balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to the meal too, in order to increase the appetite,” he added.

Seafood is Fraire’s favorite in summer too, as it is much lighter and easier to digest than meat. For his Tuscany-style seafood broth, he doesn’t even have an ingredients list.

“It all depends on what’s the freshest seafood I can get,” he said. Be it cod, prawn or clams, he’ll use any seafood that’s good on that day.

“Italian food is simple,” said Fraire, “the secret is the chef’s skill and the right ingredients.”

With the summer heat now upon us, Feng and Fraire recently shared some of their favorite seasonal recipes with us. 

   

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Stewed meatballs with clam

750 grams pork 

750 grams clams 

1 baby cabbage 

1 egg

6 grams salt

20 grams ginger

20 grams scallion

1 cup Chinese cooking wine 

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1. Rinse the clams and boil to get the clam meat. Crush ginger and scallion, and set aside.

2. Chop pork into tiny cubes.

3. In a bowl, mix the chopped pork with egg, salt, Chinese cooking wine, crushed ginger and scal- lions. Then, mix in clam meat.

4. Add water to pot. Heat until boiled. Divide meat mixture into 10 evenly-sized balls. Put meatballs into boiling water with baby cabbage on top.

5. Stew the meatballs for 2.5 hours on low heat. 

Tips:

Buy clams with slightly opened shells. This means they are fresh and alive.

When mixing the pork, try to keep the mixture together and throw it into a bowl as a whole. Repeat this procedure until the mixture clumps together.

The baby cabbage adds sweetness to the soup and meatballs. It is also tasty after absorbing the soup. 


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Tofu in sauce with pickled beans and preserved eggs 

1 box tofu

1 preserved egg

30 grams pickled beans 10 grams Chinese kale 1 teaspoon peanuts

1 teaspoon cashew nuts 1 teaspoon parsley

soy sauce

chili oil

sesame oil

1. Boil tofu and chop into cubes. Put onto a plate.

2. Fry the pickled beans with Chi- nese kale.

3. Add the fried pickled beans, crushed peanuts, cashew nuts, preserved egg and parsley on the tofu. Add the soy sauce, chili oil and sesame oil to your liking. 


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Boiled dry bean curd slices with mandarin fish slices 

2 pieces huaiyang dry bean curd 50 grams mandarin fish slices 50 grams ham slices

20 grams fish-skin

2 Chinese flowering cabbages 

10 grams bamboo shoots slices 

1 cup fish soup

1 dash cooking oil

1 pinch salt

1 pinch chicken powder

1. Slice the dry bean curd. Rinse the slices in boiling water. Fry the fish slices and put aside.

2. Add cooking oil into pan. Add fish soup, dry bean curd slices, fish-skin slices, bamboo shoot slices and Chinese flowering cabbages. Add salt and chicken powders. Then boil.

3. Add mandarin fish slices and ham slices. 


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Watermelon salad with friedjizong mushroom 

100 grams watermelon with red flesh 100 grams watermelon with yellow flesh 20 grams jizong mushroom (Collybia albuminosa)

1 cup vegetable seeds

1 teaspoon Sakura shrimp

2 grams sea salt

2 grams salt with seven spices

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Fry the jizong mushroom and add salt with seven spices.

2. Mix the fried jizong mushrooms with veg- etable seeds, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

3. Cut the watermelons into cubes. Pour bal- samic vinegar onto a plate and add water- melon cubes. Add mixture of the fried jizong mushroom, vegetable seeds and Sakura shrimp on top.

4. Drip several drops of balsamic vinegar.


Crab cake

450 grams jumbo crab meat, with all shells removed 45 grams crab mix

15 grams panko bread crumbs

5 grams Italian parsley, chopped

1 egg yolk

1. Mix egg yolk and crab mix thoroughly. Add crab meat and gently toss to combine.

2. Add panko and parsley, gently toss to combine.

3. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, if more panko is needed add a little at a time until the crab cakes are at the proper consistency.

4. Portion in to 65 grams cakes.

5. Cook in butter on a pan until gold color on both sides. 


Baked cod Mediterranean Style    

1 kilogram cod

350 grams cherry tomatoes

50 grams Taggiasca black olive 40 grams capers

120 grams red onion

10 grams garlic

10 grams fresh basil

1 sprinkle extra virgin olive oil

1 pinch salt

1. Bake the red onions with skin for 40 minutes at 140 Celsius degrees.

2. Peel the gralic and julienne.

3. Put extra virgin olive oil into pan and cook garlic and cherry tomatoes slowly until the tomatoes are soft and thoroughly cooked.

4. Add the Taggiasca black olives, the cappers and the onion.

5. Pan fry the cod.

6. Add the sauce and cook until the fillet is thoroughly cooked.

7. Add the fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. 


Tuscany style seafood broth    

A dash of extra virgin olive oil 100 grams king prawns

40 grams baby squid

40 grams scallops

40 grams shrimp

30 grams manila clams 

80 grams onion

80 grams celery

80 grams carrots

20 grams basil

1 garlic

2 teaspoon tomato sauce 

1. Chop vegetables and cook in a pan with olive oil. Clean the fish. Add the shell and bone to the vegetables to make a stock.

2. In a pan, cook chopped onion and garlic, then add the fish, all the sea- food, cherry tomato and basil. Add the fish stock and cook.

3. Add the tomato sauce and cover with cold water. Bring to boil. 


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