Happy Memorial Day Eve!
Do you get sad when you see watermelon rinds in the trash, or is it just me? It all started with my trip to Aldi..
Yesterday I bought my first ever good whole watermelon at Aldi for$3.99, enabling me to eat sweet, juicy, crunchy and non-mealy watermelon from the comforts of my own home.
Take a trip down memory lane with me, if you will: Summers at our house were marked with lots of sweet watermelon, maybe one or two at a time, rolling around on the kitchen floor. On trips to Costco (in most cases), my dad would hover around the bins of watermelon to pick the perfect one. He would flick his index finger and thumb together to thump the watermelon, and listen intently for whatever sound. He was the watermelon whisperer; I can scarcely remember a time there was bad watermelon in our house!
I can now empathize with people who never inherited or got the chance to learn the culinary secrets and tips from their chefs of parents. I never learned watermelon picking from my dad, and it’s been a sad realization, as I’ve moved away from home and don’t have the luxury of perfect watermelons in the house. I’ve picked several bad watermelons that were not only not sweet, but had mealy insides 🙁 .
So, this watermelon selection was actually mere luck of the draw; I was in the checkout at Aldi and saw watermelons and wanted one for Tim, my husband, and me to enjoy. I thumped the watermelons like I had seen my dad do, but couldn’t distinguish the sounds of a bad watermelon from a good. I also don’t have data on my phone, so I couldn’t just look up “How to pick a watermelon”, either. I asked the lady behind me in line if she knew how to pick a good one, and she said that someone told her to look for the yellow belly, and that it had worked for her thus far. I picked the first one I had tapped, because it had the signature yellow belly.
Thanks for the tip, lady! The tip succeeded once again, as the watermelon was bright red and had a large portion of that sweet “upper” watermelon part that is furthest from the rind. You know what I’m talking about!!
I cut up a bunch of watermelon, but was sad to see the rinds get tossed in the trash. What could I make…..pickles? Apparently, Westerners already have a method: pickled watermelon rind! I was dismayed to see that several recipes call for boiling the watermelon rinds for several minutes. Why not marinate and pickle it like cucumbers in liang ban huang gua? Then, I googled the recipe in Chinese, and realize that I wasn’t the only one with this brilliant idea. Oh well! It’s still good.
As you go off to your Memorial Day barbecues and are looking for a last minute salad or side dish to make, consider pickled watermelon rind! You can bring not only fruit, but a side dish as well! Enjoy.
I’ll be sharing about some of my food experiences in Taiwan in this 5 part series. It will mostly reflect our most recent trip (Oct 25- Nov 8), but will also talk about some places I went to on my second trip by myself, back in 2011. I didn’t capture all of the places we went to, but I did my best! We spent time in Taipei, Gaohsiung, Hualien, Yilan, then back to Taipei. I’ll post in order of where we went.
Don’t worry- recipes will still be posted!
If you are traveling to Taiwan with USD, you will feel rich. Note that T and I prefer mom and pop, no frills places, with some exceptions for fancier places. Taiwan is like a culinary mecca, so I know there are thousands of restaurants and food stands we missed. It would probably take a lifetime to explore them all, and have enough stomach to try everything! Do you have a favorite place to eat in Taiwan?
阜杭豆漿 fu hang dou jiang
Hua Shan Market, 2F
Saturday and Sunday lunches in my family were usually pretty sui2bian4, or whatever, because of activities or church right before. In our family, this dish was almost always an accompaniment to xi1fan4, juk, 稀飯, rice porridge, or whatever you want to call it. I guess we liked the combination of hot xifan and cold doufu (豆腐) together! Nowadays, I don’t eat xifan as much, but I still love this marinated doufu almost any time. It’s easy to make because the shelf life of most of the ingredients is pretty long!
is probably one of my dad’s favorite impromptu dishes, because I always
remember seeing him open a package of tofu out of the fridge to make this.
Aside: What’s the best way to get tofu out of the box? Use a knife (the one you are currently using to prep your ingredients, preferably), and make 3 slices along the rectangular box that the tofu comes in. Peel off the plastic covering, and dump the tofu onto an expectantly clean hand or bowl. Use the tofu box to store your cut-up tofu. There is no other way!
Anyway, my dad loves garlic, so you can bet that there would always be LOTS of garlic in any dish he made that called for garlic.
Sometimes we would have green onions in the house, sometimes not. I prefer it with!
1 package soft tofu (firm and silken could also work in a pinch)
1-2 thousand year old eggs (pi2dan4 皮蛋),sliced in half then in quarters (optional if you can’t find it or if you don’t like it)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Preserved turnip (zha4cai4 榨菜) – 2-3 tsp, minced (optional)
Dried shrimp, finely chopped and sauteed in some oil- 2-3 tsp, minced (optional)
Dried Pork (rou4song1 肉鬆)- 2-3 tsp, added at the last minute (optional)
1-2 stalks green onions, diced or minced (optional)
1-2 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped (quite optional and not that authentic)
1) If you have time, carefully salt the soft tofu all around its sides, and let the excess water drain out. If you less time, use a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to gently squeeze the excess water. If you have even less time, just use the the tofu as is.
2) Add all the ingredients to the tofu. Salt generously- remember that tofu is pretty bland on its own, and that you are seasoning a huge chunk of it! Just a little soy sauce- not enough to make your tofu look brown, but just a little for more fermented goodness.
3) Mix everything together, and try not to pulverize the tofu so that it’s itty bitty chunks like cottage cheese..(someone in my family who will not be named used to do this, and it made me very sad..)
–As always, feel free to adjust further for YOUR preference of salty/sesame oil/garlickyness.
-American brands of tofu , like Nasoya, have odd specifications for tofu firmness. I remember getting what I thought was soft tofu, only to open the package and realize that the ‘soft’ tofu was a lot more like firm tofu than anything else.
-I like Nature’s Soy tofu because they are localish, claim non-GMO beans, and I know what to expect for tofu firmness.
-Note the several different add-ins. Thanks, Mom, for the dried shrimp and dried pork suggestion!
I don’t know if I want to make this dish…
spicy and pungent garlic nudges your tastebuds gently, and its trusty friend, the green
onion, lingers in the background. The 1000-year old egg has a fattiness
and creaminess to it that stars opposite the cleansing and light tofu.
-You know how people talk about ‘Chinese salads’ or ‘Asian salads’? That’s a myth. Most Chinese food is cooked; this is as close to you’ll get as a “salad,” as the garlic, green onion, and tofu are all ‘raw’!
-Don’t worry, 1000-year old doesn’t really mean that its been sitting for 1000 years. Its texture is similar to that of a medium-boiled egg, but it’s much more bold tasting than a ‘regular’ egg.
Make this dish as a side to cut oily or heavy dishes, or make it just because it tastes good! This dish is so easy that ANYONE could make it..
3 English cucumbers
4 tsp salt
4 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 fresh chili peppers, chopped (optional)
1) Use the flat side of a knife to smash the cucumbers a bit. Beware of flying cucumber seeds and juices! I didn’t smash them enough because I was a pansy and didn’t want to get wet. Do as I say, not as I did! The smashing will help the marinade seep into the crevices of the cucumbers. Chop into 1 inch pieces. Add the cucumbers to a bowl and add the salt. Using
chopsticks, a spoon, or impeccably clean hands, toss the cucumbers so
they are evenly coated with the salt.
2) Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes, and you should see an accumulation of cucumber juice. Drain the liquid.
3) Add the rest of the ingredients.
4) Refrigerate for 20 more minutes, then taste and adjust for your preference of sweet (sugar), sour (vinegar), salt, and sesame oil. Really, it’s up to you to decide how you like your cucumbers.
5) This will taste even better the next day! But, feel free to eat it right away as well.
-The cucumbers will produce a LOT of liquid. If you are short on time and don’t mind swimming cucumbers, cut out step #3 and just add all the ingredients at once.
-If you don’t have English cucumbers, regular cucumbers will work as well. You may want to use 4 or 5 instead, to attain the same volume.