As a boy in Monterrey, I grew up eating “gorditas de harina”. This is a regional pastry that is either not known in most of Mexico or whatever they call by this name is very different. For me, there were two gold standards:
First and best, those made by Fernanda at my grandmother’s house, where I’d down them by the dozen (not healthy). She retired around 25 years ago and I never had them again.
Second best were those made by Chelito at the JCC (aka “el Club”). Loving members of my family would bring me large frozen packages of them up until she retired about two years ago.
So I was surprised when my aunt Jenny shared Chelito’s recipe:
They’re easy enough to make even for someone as useless around the kitchen as me (Ilán helped, though). And it seems like baking is the thing to do in a pandemic, and if my aunts can do it so can I. I am capturing it here for posterity.
Gorditas de Chelo
1 kg flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (Rexal)
1 can of unsweetened evaporated milk (Carnation Clavel)
400 g lard / vegetable shortening (Crisco)
Pour flour, baking powder, sugar in a bowl. Add lard and mix with fingers. Add eggs. Finally, add evaporated milk. Mix well. Let it rest for a few minutes. Make balls and use roller to give the desired shape (~12 inch circle, thick). Cook on a griddle.
If you make them, let me know! I’ll make more soon, since my batch lasted only two days.
We went with a large group of colleagues to a pretty good dumpling place. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name. It was in yet another large mall but this time in the financial district.
A highlight for me throughout the trip are steamed buns. It’s a genius concept: instead of sticking bread in an oven, steam it in a little basket! Delicious.
One interesting cultural difference is that on this side of the world, we remove the face of the things we eat. No such thing in China.
Hot Pot. Kind of like Chinese fondue. I am not a fan of fondue but mostly because I don’t want to dip my food where others dip their food. Fortunately, we each got a personal hot pot so I got to awkwardly fish pieces of food out with my poor chopsticks skills for minutes without bothering anyone else. You order a bunch of food (lamb was a favorite of mine) which they bring raw. You dip, wait, take the food out, wait for it to cool down to a reasonable temperature, eat. Impatience is not your friend. I know because I got to chew a lot of half-cooked stuff and burned the roof of my mouth. The genius of the whole concept is that if you don’t like the food, you only have to blame yourself (the cook) for it!
Here’s something I didn’t eat: Turtle soup. I was told that if you feel sick, you should eat it. I think what they meant was: if you eat it, you will feel sick.
Another pretty good drink I had: Black rice drink.
There was a little wooden duck in Ilan’s toy box for years. I finally learned what it was: a chic chopstick holder. Ironically, it eventually got decapitated and was thrown away. I say ironic because at this particular restaurant the duck is served with its head firmly in place.
Last, shoutout to my uncle Isi and cousin Rafa who heard I was going to be in China and flew halfway around the world to buy me dinner. Happy birthday Isi!
In the time I spent in Shanghai there was a lot of eating. My colleagues at work did an amazing job taking us out to eat. Below I share a few notes from the extensive eating we did.
Only one subway stop away from the hotel was Chamtime Plaza – one of seemingly thousands of restaurant-filled shopping centers around the city. This is a big, fancy place and we probably ate at ten restaurants there. There was one that specialized in Beijing Duck, and while I’ve had that dish before in the US, it definitely doesn’t compare. I think this is the only place we went to twice, on my first and last day.
In China they use ingredients that aren’t common in western cuisine. This can be a little challenging to a visitor. Things are made worse when said visitor limits himself to ingredients that aren’t intrinsically treif. Helpfully, most menus are fully illustrated and some are even translated.
Here’s a dish that ingredient-wise I could have technically tried but I decided against:
The hotel had a wonderful breakfast buffet with local food but also your typically Western breakfast. So you could get seaweed salad, made-to-order Ramen, with some corn flakes; all at the same place.
Our hosts took us to a lot of great restaurants. When trying things on our own, we didn’t fare so well. One place that was a total success was Lost Heaven in the Bund, a Yunnan-Style restaurant in… wait for it… the Bund.
One thing I saw in lots of convenience stores was these white glass bottles that people drank out of using a straw. I couldn’t help but be curious. It turned out to be: yogurt. Good tasting for sure, maybe not the most refreshing thing after an arduous workout.
The biggest challenge for me was that I suck at using chopsticks. Everyone else in the country seems not to suck at it. I could have starved, had others not felt pity for me and chopstick-fed me.
Honorable mention: tea. Especially milk tea. Especially matcha milk tea.
This post is getting too long for the limited attention span of my readers, so it will have to be continued…
More protein than beef. More omegas than salmon. Tons of calcium, antioxidants, and vitamin B.
Most importantly, it’s supposed to look, taste – and the hard one – have the texture of a real hamburger. So is it true? The MKX® set out to find out.
Unsurprisingly, Whole Foods was the only place where I found it. It comes in a box in the frozen section. Two patties for $6, which seems pretty expensive to me, but what do I know.
While there, I also bought the only hamburger buns they had. They were whole wheat, organic, small, dry, overpriced, and nasty. This means that the Beast Burger would be at a disadvantage in the taste tests. I wasn’t about to go to HEB for normal hamburger buns though. To round it out, I got overpriced organic tomatoes and lettuce, both looked great.
So for the taste test I invited three participants.
Eli: Lifelong vegetarian, hasn’t eaten a hamburger ever.
Nira: vegetarian since 2000, hasn’t had a hamburger in five years.
Shlomit: vegetarian since that morning, hadn’t had a hamburger in five days.
While the instructions on the box say you can do this on a pan, I had to do it right and fired off the grill for the first time since last year.
This is what it looked like:
The weird looking things in the back are portobello mushrooms, in case the experiment is a failure. I was not brave enough to face hungry blood-lusting vegetarians.
You can see the four patties. The one on the left still has ice on it – you are supposed to put them on the grill still frozen. They do look like convincing hamburgers and for this they get a point. Notice those beautiful grill lines on them. I take no credit for them: that’s how it came out of the box. To me that’s cheating and for all I know they use dye to paint them.
After a few minutes on the grill I served the hamburgers. Here’s Eli and Shlomit enjoying them:
This is what they had to say:
Eli: I have no idea if this is what a hamburger should taste like, but it’s good.
Nira: It’s good.
Shlomit: I want a real hamburger.
It was so good that I still have four frozen patties in my freezer and no plans to eat them anytime soon.
The texture was pretty convincing.
The taste was a little bit bland, needed more spices and maybe salt.
It was a pretty small burger.
Better buns would have helped.
I think that if you aren’t vegetarian, you shouldn’t approach this as “will taste like a hamburger” or you will be disappointed. You should think of it it the way I think about Tex-Mex (don’t expect Mexican), or soy milk (don’t expect milk), or transvestites (no further comment). If you do this, I think the Beast Burger is a pretty decent non-meat meal and my cholesterol thanks me for it.
That said, any man with instinct for self-preservation knows that when hungry nursing woman says, “I want a real hamburger,” you must deliver.
So here’s the real beast of a burger: Roaring Fork’s famous and also overpriced $14 1 pound of real cow “Big Ass Burger”:
I pride myself of having introduced my family in Mexico to Quinoa as a Kosher for Passover food. The only way to top it would be to bring more innovative unleavened goods.
So I bought a case (not a can, but a full case) of Matzolah, Kosherfest’s award for Best New Passover Product of 2012. It tastes really good, like granola, but without the pesky side effects of being good for you or helping your stomach digest food. We’ll see what the reaction is.
I recently came back from a two week trip to Israel. People are asking me what I did over there. In one word: eat.
I even made a list of the things I wanted to eat, and got to all of them except for one. Highlights of what I ate in pictorial form follow. It’s long so read more to see all. No explanation of what each thing is, so feel free to use Google.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this to anyone but I feel compelled to mention Trader Joe’s, a local supermarket chain. They have a store across the street from the office and they sell very good, very cheap food. It’s become my go-to place for quick, cheap, healthy meals.
For example, today I had a gigantic salad and some Indian food for a little over $5. And most of these things do not include chemical ingredients I cannot pronounce. This is perhaps the only thing so far that I’ve found to be cheaper than the Texan equivalent.