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2005.10.19

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RST

Shandong part of Dongbei? Oooh, be careful who you say that to-you might get into big trouble for that. Culinarily, they are without a question completely distinct: Shandong is individual enough to be considered a distinct regional cuisine and many people consider a great one. This said, Shandong cuisine was a major influence on NE cooking and of course Manchurian foodways shaped Imperial/Beijing cooking, although no ethnic Han (except me ;0) )will ever admit to that. The majority of Chinese living in Korea are shan dong ren and there is significant exchange between Korean and Shandong cooking.

I have written extensively about ta la p'i on the old Chowhound Chicago Board. This is one of my favorite dishes in the city (the two fine examples in Chicago are from Ed's Potsticker House and the dongbei restaurant Dragon King). The starch (I think I called it "jelly" in those posts) is literally "pulled" after being congealed in the pan. More later, have to run.

Sue

What interesting and delicious food! You're such an expert on Chinese food, Robyn! :) You put this Chinese to great embarrassment! Hehe..

Robyn

RST -- don't think I have any Shandong readers so I won't worry about getting flamed. ;-)

Sue -- I'm no expert, just a curious glutton!

RST

I just did a google search on "ta la p'i" and found my old posts on CH as well as a menu enjoyed years ago at Ed's Potsticker House that I notated and that I had forgotten completely about. I called this dish a "salad" and remarked that this is a dish where the chef can exhibit his skills with his knife. The dish should be composed beautifully, with the julienned cucumber and pork slivers carefully (and often symmetrically) arranged over the mound of mung bean jelly on a round plate. (Your dish-with the jelly thrown helter-skelter on top-is a bit strange//and is that ground pork instead of slivers in the dish? But perhaps this is an everyday, informal version...?) I am surprised that you did not mention mustard at all anywhere on this post as it is a key element of the "dressing" as well as a beloved condiment in the cuisine in general. The balance of the flavors in the dressing for ta la p'i is I think very hard to get just right. It is a great dish when prepared correctly, but sadly, in the years since I first wrote about it and championed it, no one in poor benighted Chicago has even given it as much as a second glance. I would love it very much if you could finagle your way into the kitchen and give us a photographic account of the way the "jelly" is "pulled" and formed. As far as I know, you are only the third person in the Western world to describe this dish. The first was Jonathan Gold in a capsule review of a now-long-gone LA restaurant. He never named the dish or provided the context, but from his precise description, I knew that he was talking about the same dish. It's time to get the world to know this wonderful dish!!!

Re: your "dry" noodles

Looks like they made you a plate of ja jiang mian.

*************

More please!!!

I want to read more about this restaurant! Ed's and Dragon King both have several pages of strange and wonderful, specifically dongbei items (corn cakes and chuan yang t'ang-"whole" lamb soup complete with tripe and offal bits-and so on). I am sure that they are there in KL too if you dig more. Also check out their hsiao tsi (small eats) if they have any aside from the dumplings: all sorts of wheat buns, pancakes etc Oh, and the different types of sour vegetables they use as condiments!

Kirk

Actually my wife is from Shandong - she saw this and just laughed, and said "it's all in how you look at it!" Fantastic food and review.

Robyn

RST -- good idea, to get into the kitchen and see how the jelly is made. Will give it a try. The pork in the dish is slivered, not ground. This place is very homestyle, and so is the food ... I don't go for the artistry, just for the flavors. ;-) Re mustard -- she didn't mention it as part of the dressing. I may ask again. Yes, zha zhang mian with dao shao mian, that's what I thought to. There is also a "zha zhang mian with handmade noodles" on the menu. Not a whole lot of small eats -- a few noodles, the dumplings, mantou, bao.
Kirk -- you're wife is exactly right! A Shandong dumpling-maker we met in Shanghai years ago called herself a "Dongbei person" ... she was comparing Dongbei people to Shanghai people (you might imagine that the comparison was not flattering to Shanghai people) and began with, "We Dongbei ren ..." So maybe its not just in how you look at it, but whom you are comparing yourself to!

xinistri

What a great article. I'm an Australian living in China, in "DONGBEI". (Liaoning Province, Shenyang City). Almost all of the dishes you've shown here I've eaten at some point or another during my time here, these are very common dishes in the cold North East of China. Of course, a countries/regions food cooked elsewhere always is adapted somewhat depending on produce, availability of ingredients, etc. Nonetheless, it's great to see other people being able to get a taste of "DongBei Cai". They truly do deserve more attention, as they are often ignored in favour of southern Cantonese, Sichuan style dishes.

:) Great Work! Love from Liaoning

Erica

Your post made me salivate and miss Dongbei home-cooking! I was born in Harbin but moved to Australia when I was very young, and now having moved out of home, there is no one to cook Dongbei food for me. I must learn from my mum! The Chinese food in Sydney is great, but it's mostly Cantonese and Shanghainese. Can't wait to have some mala mian!

xinistri

I noticed there is somebody on this blog who posted a comment back in August under the name of xinistri... That is my name... Who copied it :P I am an Aussie, who has lived in Shenyang (which is classified as DongBei) and have used the name xinistri for my YouTube and blogs and everything, and so this person must have seen something of mine and decided to use xinistri... not happy having a Chinese xinistri and an Aussie xinistri... the net is not big enough for the two of us hahahahaha

adele h.

wheres the recipe to this stuff...got my mouth watering!

albert

Does anyone know of a Dongbei restaurant in Chicago?

zungolo@aol.com

Alex

Replying to Erica, there is a food court stall in Sydney called "Bijou China" which has a few Dongbei dishes. It is in the Dixon House Food Court in Chinatown.

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