At the start of S4, my final semester in Liu He, I have made a commitment to make eating at the cafeteria a last resort. The cafeteria has its good days, but most of the time I leave there feeling hungry and underwhelmed. This is due to my distaste for filling up on pig fat, rice, and oil. Unfortunately, this is a result of the cafeteria not having enough money to make healthier, diverse meals.
I am privileged enough to buy and cook my own food though, so I do my best to do so as much as I can. No surprise: Cooking in rural China is time consuming. Market day is on every day of the month with a 1, 4, and 7 (i.e. the 1st, 4th, 7th, 11th, 14th, 17, 21st, 24th, 27th, and 31st. ) So, I have 10 days in each month to buy the fruits and veggies I need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is life:
1. Walk 20 minute to market day to get to the village center.
2. Buy about 3/4 days worth of vegetables and fruits. Put them in the wonderful basket that Johan graciously carries.
3. Walk 20 minutes uphill to get back to school.
4. Walk across campus to wash vegetables (while squatting) and fill up water bucket.
5. Prepare all food in outdoor kitchen with only one hot plate.
6. Walk across school to wash dishes (while squatting) and refill water bucket…again.
Doing this 2/3 times a day is exhausting, but I have come to appreciate this exhausting/relaxing routine. This is the routine of life for most people in my village.
Also, market day has been kickin’ lately. For example, today I capitalized on the rare opportunity I to buy broccoli and onion!
Tonight’s dinner: a Broccoli Oyster Sauce dish. If you do not know about Oyster Sauce, you really got to get in on it. It is a rich sauce made from boiled oysters, seasoning, and brown sugar. It sounds funky, but I assure you that is taste nothing like oysters. I cannot find it in my village, so I buy it in Dali.
The dish was a success! Perfectly sweet and savory.
What’s in it?
- 2 heads of broccoli
- 2 handfuls of mushrooms (It depends on what market day has , right?)
- 3 small red peppers
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 inch of fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- A pinch of red pepper flakes (I used a type with the Chinese flower pepper in it 麻辣…love it)
Let’s do it:
1. Cut up your broccoli into bite sized pieces (Bite sized test: Is it light enough and small enough for you to pick up with a chop stick? If it’s too 麻烦 to do this, then chop some more).
2. Dice your peppers and thinly slice your mushrooms
3. Mince your ginger and garlic
4. Put the oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and pepper flakes into a separate bowl and mix away
1. While you are prepping, you can steam the broccoli. I steamed it in my rice cooker while the rice was cooking today.
2. Saute mushrooms and peppers on low-medium heat (remember this is on a hot plate, not a US stove) for 3 minutes. Move to separate bowl.
3. Heat oil in pan on low-medium heat, add ginger and half of garlic to flavor the oil.
4. Add back the mushrooms and peppers. Then, add the steamed broccoli.
5. Add the oyster sauce mixture. Taste a piece. Add desired salt.
5. Stir for a minute. Then, add the last bit of garlic.
6. Put a lid on it for another 3 minutes.
7. 吃饭了。Let’s eat.
In a nut shell: