iPhoneOgraphy – 26 Dec 2016 (Day 361/366)
Crabs are decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura, which typically have a very short projecting “tail” (abdomen), usually entirely hidden under the thorax. They live in all the world’s oceans, in fresh water, and on land, are generally covered with a thick exoskeleton and have a single pair of claws. Many other animals with similar names – such as hermit crabs, king crabs, porcelain crabs, horseshoe crabs, and crab lice – are not true crabs.
Crabs are generally covered with a thick exoskeleton, composed primarily of calcium carbonate, and armed with a single pair of chelae (claws). Crabs are found in all of the world’s oceans, while many crabs live in fresh water and on land, particularly in tropical regions. Crabs vary in size from the pea crab, a few millimetres wide, to the Japanese spider crab, with a leg span of up to 4 metres (13 ft).
About 850 species of crab are freshwater, terrestrial or semi-terrestrial species; they are found throughout the world’s tropical and semi-tropical regions. They were previously thought to be a monophyletic group, but are now believed to represent at least two distinct lineages, one in the Old World and one in the New World.
The earliest unambiguous crab fossils date from the Jurassic, although Carboniferous Imocaris, known only from its carapace, may be a primitive crab. The radiation of crabs in the Cretaceous and afterward may be linked either to the break-up of Gondwana or to the concurrent radiation of bony fish, crabs’ main predators.
Crabs often show marked sexual dimorphism. Males often have larger claws, a tendency which is particularly pronounced in the fiddler crabs of the genus Uca (Ocypodidae). In fiddler crabs, males have one claw which is greatly enlarged and which is used for communication, particularly for attracting a mate. Another conspicuous difference is the form of the pleon (abdomen); in most male crabs, this is narrow and triangular in form, while females have a broader, rounded abdomen. This is because female crabs brood fertilised eggs on their pleopods.
Crabs are prepared and eaten as a dish in several different ways all over the world. Some species are eaten whole, including the shell, such as soft-shell crab; with other species, just the claws and/or legs are eaten. The latter is particularly common for larger crabs, such as the snow crab. Mostly in East Asian cultures, the roe of the female crab is also eaten, which usually appears orange or yellow in fertile crabs.
In some regions, spices improve the culinary experience. In Southeast Asia and Indosphere, masala crab and chili crab are examples of heavily spiced dishes. In the Chesapeake Bay region, blue crab is often eaten with Old Bay Seasoning. Alaskan king crab or snow crab legs are usually simply boiled and served with garlic or lemon butter.
For the British dish Cromer crab, the crab meat is extracted and placed inside the hard shell. One American way to prepare crab meat is by extracting it and adding a flour mix, creating a crab cake. Crabs are also used in bisque, a global dish of French origin.
Imitation crab, made from minced fish products that are crafted to resemble crab meat, is disdained throughout the culinary industry as an unacceptably low-quality substitute for real crab. This does not hinder its popularity in Japan (where it originated) and in home cooking, where cost is often a chief concern.
iPhoneOgraphy – 04 Dec 2016 (Day 339/366)
French fries (American English), chips (British English), fries, finger chips (Indian English), or French-fried potatoes are batonnet or allumette cut deep-fried potatoes. In the United States and most of Canada, the term fries refers to all dishes of fried elongated pieces of potatoes, while in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand, thinly cut fried potatoes are sometimes called shoestring fries to distinguish them from the thicker-cut chips.
French fries are served hot, either soft or crispy, and are generally eaten as part of lunch or dinner or by themselves as a snack, and they commonly appear on the menus of fast food restaurants. Fries in America are generally salted and are often served with ketchup; in many countries they are topped instead with other condiments or toppings, including vinegar, mayonnaise, or other local specialties. Fries can be topped more heavily, as in the dishes of poutine and chili cheese fries. French fries can be made from sweet potatoes instead of potatoes. A baked variant of the french fry uses less or even no oil.
Some claim that fries originated in Belgium, and that the ongoing dispute between the French and Belgians about where they were invented is highly contentious, with both countries claiming ownership. From the Belgian standpoint the popularity of the term “French fries” is explained as a “French gastronomic hegemony” into which the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding coupled with a shared language and geographic proximity between the two countries.
Belgian journalist Jo Gérard claims that a 1781 family manuscript recounts that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in the Meuse valley, in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium): “The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here.” Gérard has not produced the manuscript that supports this claim, which, even if true, is unrelated to the later history of the French fry, as the potato did not arrive in the region until around 1735. Also, given 18th century economic conditions: “It is absolutely unthinkable that a peasant could have dedicated large quantities of fat for cooking potatoes. At most they were sautéed in a pan…”.
Some people believe that the term “French” was introduced when British and American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them “French”, as it was the local language and the official language of the Belgian Army at that time, believing themselves to be in France. At that time, the term “French fries” was growing in popularity. But in fact the term was already used in America as early as 1899, in an item in Good Housekeeping which specifically references “Kitchen Economy in France”: “The perfection of French fries is due chiefly to the fact that plenty of fat is used”.
“Pommes frites” or just “frites” (French), or “frieten” (Dutch) became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes, such as Moules-frites or Steak-frites.
In France and other French-speaking countries, fried potatoes are formally pommes de terre frites, but more commonly pommes frites, patates frites, or simply frites. The words aiguillettes or allumettes are used when the French fries are very small and thin.
One enduring origin story holds that French fries were invented by street vendors on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1789, just before the outbreak of the French Revolution. However, a reference exists in France from 1775 to “a few pieces of fried potato” and to “fried potatoes”.
Eating potatoes for sustenance was promoted in France by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, but he did not mention fried potatoes in particular. Many Americans attribute the dish to France and offer as evidence a notation by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson: “Pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches” (“Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices”) in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson’s hand (circa 1801–1809) and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honoré Julien. In addition, from 1813 on, recipes for what can be described as “French fries” occur in popular American cookbooks. By the late 1850s, a cookbook was published that used the term French fried potatoes.
Frites are the main ingredient in the Canadian/Québécois dish known (in both Canadian English and French) as poutine; a dish consisting of fried potatoes covered with cheese curds and gravy. Poutine has a growing number of variations but is generally considered to have been developed in rural Québec sometime in the 1950s, although precisely where in the province it first appeared is a matter of contention.
In Spain, fried potatoes are called patatas fritas or papas fritas. Another common form, involving larger irregular cuts, is patatas bravas. The potatoes are cut into big chunks, partially boiled and then fried. They are usually seasoned with a spicy tomato sauce, and the dish is one of the most preferred tapas by Spaniards.
Some speculate that fries may have been invented in Spain, the first European country in which the potato appeared from the New World colonies, and assume fries’ first appearance to have been as an accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia, from which it spread to the rest of the country and then further away, to the “Spanish Netherlands”, which became Belgium more than a century later.
Professor Paul Ilegems, curator of the Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium, believes that Saint Teresa of Ávila of Spain cooked the first French fries, and refers also to the tradition of frying in Mediterranean cuisine as evidence.
iPhoneOgraphy – 03 Dec 2016 (Day 338/366)
Pan mee (Chinese: 板麺, pronounced as ban mian) is a Hakka-style noodle, originating from Malaysia. Its Chinese name literally translates to “flat flour noodle”. It is part of Malaysian Chinese cuisine.
The dough is made from flour (sometimes egg is added for more flavor). Traditionally, the dough is hand-kneaded and torn into smaller pieces of dough (about 2 inches). Nowadays, the dough can be kneaded using machine into a variety of shapes, the most common shape being flat strips of noodle.
Pan mee is typically served in soup, together with dried anchovies, minced pork, mushrooms, and a leafy vegetable such as sweet potato leaves or sayur manis (sauropus androgynus). It can also be served dry with a thick black soya sauce (also known as dried pan mee). Other serving styles include curry broth, chili-based broth, and pork belly.
The soup plays a very important role in the preparation of pan mee. Typically, the soup is prepared by boiling pig bones and dried anchovies for hours in order to bring out the flavor. In the case of curry broth, a diluted form of curry is used.
Dry chilli pan mee is also becoming popular, especially in the Klang Valley. This dry noodle is served with minced pork, fried onions, anchovies, and topped with a poached egg which is stirred into the noodles. The most important part of the dish is the dry chilli mix (or sambal) which is served with it. Those with a strong tolerance for chillies often add several spoonfuls of the chilli to the noodles, though most are content with one spoon of the fiery chilli.
Pan mee is typically eaten for breakfast, but it is widely available and commonly eaten for lunch and dinner as well. In Malaysia, one can find pan mee at hawker stalls, restaurants, and shopping malls offering Chinese cuisine. The price may vary, depending on the location of the restaurant or eatery. It usually costs less at hawker stalls but can cost more at restaurants, shopping malls, commercial and developed areas. This is due to tax, profit margins and the availability of the ingredients.
iPhoneOgraphy – 16 Nov 2016 (Day 321/366)
Buldak is a Korean dish made from heavily spiced chicken. The term “bul” is Korean for “fire” and “dak” translates to “chicken.” A decade ago, buldak became famous for its extreme spiciness. Even some Koreans are unable to eat buldak for this reason.
South Korea’s long term recession and economic downturn made people seek spicy food in order to relieve stress. Buldak was invented by Fuyuan Foods, which first registered Buldak at a patent office around 2000. In April 2008, however, with the expiration of the original patent, the name Buldak became free for public use. There used to be only one chain of restaurants that served Buldak but now there are many more. Famous Buldak restaurants are Hongcho Buldak, Hwarang Buldak, and Hwaro Buldak. Buldak has also become somewhat prominent in supermarkets, with brands such as Samyang Food creating Buldak-flavored ramen. Buldak has led to the development of other dishes inspired from it. In recent years, however, its popularity has somewhat declined.
iPhoneOgraphy – 06 Nov 2016 (Day 311/366)
Sushi (すし, 寿司, 鮨) a type of food preparation originating in Japan, consisting of cooked vinegared rice (鮨飯 sushi-meshi) combined with other ingredients (ネタ neta) such as seafood, meat, vegetables and sometimes tropical fruits. Ingredients and forms of sushi presentation vary widely, but the ingredient which all sushi have in common is rice (also referred to as shari (しゃり) or sumeshi (酢飯)). Although commonly mistaken for sushi, sashimi, which is also a Japanese delicacy, consists of thinly sliced raw meat or fish and may or may not be served with rice.
Sushi can be prepared with either brown or white rice. It is often prepared with raw seafood, but some common varieties of sushi use cooked ingredients and many are vegetarian. Sushi is often served with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce. Popular garnishes are often made using daikon.
The original type of sushi, known today as nare-zushi (馴れ寿司, 熟寿司,) was first made in Southeast Asia. Fish was salted and wrapped in fermented rice, a traditional lacto-fermented rice dish. Narezushi was made of this gutted fish which was stored in fermented rice for months at a time for preservation. The fermentation of the rice prevented the fish from spoiling. The fermented rice was discarded and fish was the only part consumed. This early type of sushi became an important source of protein for the Japanese. The term sushi comes from an antiquated grammatical form no longer used in other contexts, and literally means “sour-tasting”, a reflection of its historic origin as a fermented food. The oldest form of sushi in Japan, narezushi, is still made by wrapping fish in soured fermenting rice, which causes the fish proteins to break down into their constituent amino acids. The fermenting rice and fish have both a sour and an umami taste.
Contemporary Japanese sushi has little resemblance to the traditional lacto-fermented rice dish. Originally, when the fermented fish was taken out of the rice, only the fish was consumed while the fermented rice was discarded. The strong-tasting and smelling funazushi, a kind of narezushi made near Lake Biwa in Japan, resembles the traditional fermented dish. Beginning in the Muromachi period (1336–1573) of Japan, vinegar was added to the mixture for better taste and preservation. The vinegar accentuated the rice’s sourness and was known to increase its shelf life, allowing the fermentation process to be shortened and eventually abandoned. In the following centuries, sushi in Osaka evolved into oshi-zushi. The seafood and rice were pressed using wooden (usually bamboo) molds. By the mid 18th century, this form of sushi had reached Edo (contemporary Tokyo).
The contemporary version, internationally known as “sushi”, was created by Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) at the end of the Edo period in Edo. Sushi invented by Hanaya was an early form of fast food that was not fermented (therefore prepared quickly) and could be conveniently eaten with one’s hands. The size of the previous sushi was about three times as large as contemporary ones. Originally, this sushi was known as Edomae zushi because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Edo Bay or Tokyo Bay). Though the fish used in modern sushi no longer usually comes from Tokyo Bay, it is still formally known as Edomae nigirizushi.
iPhoneOgraphy – 26 Oct 2016 (Day 300/366)
Dim sum (simplified Chinese: 点心; traditional Chinese: 點心; pinyin: Diǎnxīn; Sidney Lau: dim2sam1) is a style of Chinese cuisine (particularly Cantonese but also other varieties) prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum (a transliteration of the Cantonese) dishes are famous for the unique way they are served traditionally whereby fully cooked, ready-to-serve dishes are pushed on carts around the restaurant for diners to select without leaving their seats.
Dim sum is usually linked with the older tradition from yum cha (drinking tea), which has its roots in travelers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest. Thus, teahouses were established along the roadside. An imperial physician in the third century wrote that combining tea with food would lead to excessive weight gain. People later discovered that tea can aid in digestion, so teahouse owners began adding various snacks.
The unique culinary art dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. However, in modern society, it has become commonplace for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner time; various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go.
A traditional dim sum brunch includes various types of steamed buns such as cha siu bao (a steamed bun filled with barbecue pork), dumplings and rice noodle rolls (cheong fun), which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns, and vegetarian options. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, roasted meats, congee and other soups. Dessert dim sum is also available and many places offer the customary egg tart. Dim sum is usually eaten as breakfast.
Dim sum can be cooked by steaming and frying, among other methods. The serving sizes are usually small and normally served as three or four pieces in one dish. It is customary to order family style, sharing dishes among all members of the dining party. Because of the small portions, people can try a wide variety of food.
iPhoneOgraphy – 19 Apr 2016 (Day 110/366)
A tart is a baked dish consisting of a filling over a pastry base with an open top not covered with pastry. The pastry is usually shortcrust pastry; the filling may be sweet or savoury, though modern tarts are usually fruit-based, sometimes with custard. Tartlet refers to a miniature tart; an example would be egg tarts. Examples of tarts include jam tarts, which may be different colours depending on the flavour of the jam used to fill them, and the Bakewell tart.
The categories of ‘tart’, ‘flan’, ‘quiche’ and ‘pie’ overlap, with no sharp distinctions. The French word tarte can be translated to mean either pie or tart, as both are mainly the same with the exception of a pie usually covering the filling in pastry, while flans and tarts leave it open. Tarts are also typically free-standing with firm pastry, thick filling, and perpendicular sides while pies may have softer pastry, looser filling, and sloped sides, necessitating service from the pie plate. The Italian crostata, dating to at least the mid-15th century, has been described as a “rustic free-form version of an open fruit tart”.
Early medieval tarts generally had meat fillings, but later ones were often based on fruit and custard.
Tarte Tatin is an upside-down tart, of apples, other fruit, or onions.
Savoury tarts include quiche, a family of savoury tarts with a mostly custard filling; German Zwiebelkuchen ‘onion tart’, and Swiss cheese tart made from Gruyere.
iPhoneOgraphy – 18 Apr 2016 (Day 109/366)
The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of different families of saltwater clams, bivalve molluscs that live in marine or brackish habitats. In some species the valves are highly calcified, and many are somewhat irregular in shape. Many, but not all, oysters are in the superfamily Ostreoidea.
Some kinds of oysters are commonly consumed by humans, cooked or raw, the latter being a delicacy. Some kinds of pearl oyster are harvested for the pearl produced within the mantle. Windowpane oyster are harvested for their translucent shells, which are used to make various kinds of decorative objects.
Middens testify to the prehistoric importance of oysters as food, with some middens in New South Wales, Australia dated at ten thousand years. They have been cultivated in Japan from at least 2000 BC. In the United Kingdom, the town of Whitstable is noted for oyster farming from beds on the Kentish Flats that have been used since Roman times. The borough of Colchester holds an annual Oyster Feast each October, at which “Colchester Natives” (the native oyster, Ostrea edulis) are consumed. The United Kingdom hosts several other annual oyster festivals, for example Woburn Oyster Festival is held in September. Many breweries produce Oyster Stout, a beer intended to be drunk with oysters that sometimes includes oysters in the brewing process.
The French seaside resort of Cancale in Brittany is noted for its oysters, which also date from Roman times. Sergius Orata of the Roman Republic is considered the first major merchant and cultivator of oysters. Using his considerable knowledge of hydraulics, he built a sophisticated cultivation system, including channels and locks, to control the tides. He was so famous for this, the Romans used to say he could breed oysters on the roof of his house.
In Ireland, it is traditional to eat them live with Guinness and buttered brown soda bread.
In the early 19th century, oysters were cheap and mainly eaten by the working class. Throughout the 19th century, oyster beds in New York Harbor became the largest source of oysters worldwide. On any day in the late 19th century, six million oysters could be found on barges tied up along the city’s waterfront. They were naturally quite popular in New York City, and helped initiate the city’s restaurant trade. New York’s oystermen became skilled cultivators of their beds, which provided employment for hundreds of workers and nutritious food for thousands. Eventually, rising demand exhausted many of the beds. To increase production, they introduced foreign species, which brought disease; effluent and increasing sedimentation from erosion destroyed most of the beds by the early 20th century. Oysters’ popularity has put ever-increasing demands on wild oyster stocks. This scarcity increased prices, converting them from their original role as working-class food to their current status as an expensive delicacy.
In the United Kingdom, the native variety (Ostrea edulis) requires five years to mature and is protected by an Act of Parliament during the May to August spawning season. The current market is dominated by the larger Pacific oyster and rock oyster varieties which are farmed year round.